AskDefine | Define hag

Dictionary Definition



1 an ugly evil-looking old woman [syn: beldam, beldame, witch, crone]
2 eellike cyclostome having a tongue with horny teeth in a round mouth surrounded by eight tentacles; feeds on dead or trapped fishes by boring into their bodies [syn: hagfish, slime eels]

User Contributed Dictionary



Perhaps an abbreviation of hægtesse.


  • /hæg/
    Rhymes with: -æɡ


  1. A witch, sorceress, or enchantress; also, a wizard.
  2. An ugly old woman.
  3. A fury; a she-monster.
  4. An eel-like marine marsipobranch (Myxine glutinosa), allied to the lamprey. It has a suctorial mouth, with labial appendages, and a single pair of gill openings. It is the type of the order Hyperotreti. Called also hagfish, borer, slime eel, sucker, and sleepmarken.
  5. The hagdon or shearwater.
  6. An appearance of light and fire on a horse's mane or a man's hair.


a witch, sorceress, or enchantress; also, a wizard
an ugly old woman
a fury; a she-monster
an eel-like marine marsipobranch
the hagdon or shearwater
an appearance of light and fire on a horse's mane or a man's hair



  1. and


  • ha - before a consonant (and /j/)

Extensive Definition

For the fish, see Hagfish. For the Swiss model train company, see HAG. For the fruit of the tree [Prunus padus], see Bird Cherry.
A hag (or crone) is a wizened old woman, or a kind of fairy or goddess having the appearance of such a woman, often found in folklore and children's tales such as Hansel and Gretel. Hags are often seen as malevolent, but may also be one of the chosen forms of shapeshifting deities, such as the Morrígan or Badbh, who are seen as neither wholly beneficent nor malevolent. The term appears in Middle English, and might be short for hægtesse, an Old English term for witch.

Hag in folklore

A hag, or "the Old Hag", was a nightmare spirit in British and Anglophone North American folklore. This variety of hag is essentially identical to the Anglo-Saxon mæra — a being with roots in ancient Germanic superstition, and closely related to the Scandinavian mara. According to folklore, the Old Hag sat on a sleeper's chest and sent nightmares to him or her. When the subject awoke, he or she would be unable to breathe or even move for a short period of time. Currently this state is called sleep paralysis, but in the old belief the subject had been "hagridden". It is still frequently discussed as if it were a paranormal state.
In Irish and Scottish mythology, the Cailleach is a hag goddess concerned with creation, harvest, the weather and sovereignty.
Many tales about hags do not describe them well enough to distinguish between an old woman who knows magic or a supernatural being.

In neurobiology

The expression Old Hag Attack refers to a hypnagogic state in which paralysis is present and, quite often, it is accompanied by terrifying hallucinations. When excessively recurrent, some consider them to be a disorder; however many populations treat them as simply part of their culture and mythological world-view, rather than any form of disease or pathology.

In popular culture

In the Dungeons & Dragons game, "hags" are at least three races of female creatures, sort of female counterparts to ogres. They are the annis (named from an analogous creature from the British folklore), the green hag (a green-skinned version of the Slavic Baba Yaga), and the sea hag (sort of a sea witch, not a mermaid). All three sorts are evil, but not overly powerful.
Hags are occasionally mentioned in the Harry Potter series, but never in any great detail (the prologue of "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" mentions that they are classed as beings (as opposed to beasts) that children are part of their diet and that they can glide). Hags are occasionally encountered in the wizarding village Hogsmeade, where they are distinguished from "conventional" wizards and witches. It is unclear if such Hags live in Hogsmeade or simply visit the village for business and/or social reasons.
Hags are also mentioned in the Chronicles of Narnia book series. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Hags are one of the various kinds of evil creatures whom the White Witch has present at the killing of Aslan. Later, in Prince Caspian, a Hag, along with a Werewolf and the dwarf Nikabrik, tries to persuade Caspian to summon the Witch back to life. They attack after being refused, and are killed.
In the Popeye comics and cartoons, Popeye is sometimes pursued by a villainous witch called Sea Hag, who has an unrequited love for the sailor.

See also


Further reading

  • Sagan, Carl (1997) The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.
  • Kettlewell, N; Lipscomb, S; Evans, E. (1993) Differences in neuropsychological correlates between normals and those experiencing "Old Hag Attacks". Percept Mot Skills 1993 Jun;76 (3 Pt 1):839-45; discussion 846. PMID 8321596

External links

hag in German: Hexe
hag in Japanese: ハッグ

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Jezebel, Weird Sisters, baboon, bag, bat, battle-ax, beldam, biddy, bitch-kitty, blemish, blot, coven, crone, dame, dog, dowager, drab, enchantress, eyesore, fishwife, fright, frump, fury, gammer, gargoyle, gorgon, grandam, grandmother, granny, grimalkin, harpy, harridan, hellcat, hellhag, hex, lamia, mess, monster, monstrosity, no beauty, old battle-ax, old dame, old girl, old granny, old lady, old trot, old wife, old woman, scarecrow, shamaness, she-devil, she-wolf, shrew, sight, siren, slattern, sorceress, teratism, termagant, tigress, trot, ugly duckling, virago, vixen, war-horse, wildcat, witch, witchwife, witchwoman
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