“Quit nagging on the bread!”

The word nag has 4 definitions and at least 3 sub definitions that can be found in the OED. The first definition given is, “To gnaw, to nibble.” This is not what I expected the first definition would be, but it is the oldest record of the word dating back to 1825 when it was used in BROCKETT N.C. Gloss., Nag, “to gnaw at anything hard.” The sub definition is, “to keep up a dull gnawing pain; to ache persistently.” The example of this definition is sort of funny because it’s actually a question and answer type scenario: “How’s your face, now?” “Well it nags a bit.” The second definition falls more in line with what I think of when I hear the word nag. It means, “To be persistently worrying or irritating by continued fault-finding, scolding, or urging.” The third definition is much like the last in that it means, “To assail or annoy (a person) with persistent fault-finding or provocation; to irritate with continuous urging to something.” The most recent example can be found under this definition from 1969: “I am told that R. P. Blackmur used to give a lecture on Jane Austen in which he explored her work in terms of the verb ‘to nag’ (‘she nags out her plots’).” The sub definition is, “to wear out by nagging.” What is interesting about this particular definition, is that the example given spells nag with an extra ‘g’ (nagg). After I saw this, I looked back to the beginning of the word and discovered that you can actually spell this word three different ways: nagg, knag, or gnag. The final definition of the word nag is, “Used with repetition of the stem-syllable to express the persistency of the action.”

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