An acronym from the initial letters of wives and girlfriends, Wags (also WAGs, WAGS, wags) designates the female partners of famous sportsmen or celebrities, typically characterised as having a high media profile and a glamorous or extravagant lifestyle. The singular noun Wag is a back-formation from the acronym.
Originally, Wags designated the wives and girlfriends of the 2002 England World Cup football team. It is first recorded in Footballers’ wives, by Topaz Amoore, published in The Sunday Telegraph (London, England) of 19th May 2002—Topaz Amoore attributed the coinage of Wags to “staff at the Jumeirah Beach Club”, Dubai:
Yesterday, England’s ‘Wags’ – the wives and girlfriends of the World Cup players – returned to Britain after five days of bonding. So how did they get along? Topaz Amoore in Dubai reports.
[…] As the wives and girlfriends assembled around the resort’s pool, the World Cup “warm-up” was proving anything but. Conversation between the womenfolk was stilted, and even Dubai’s 40C heat was not helping to break the ice.
It was never guaranteed that the wives and girlfriends (or “the Wags”, as staff at the Jumeirah Beach Club call them for short) would get along.
“We saw them all by the pool at the beginning of the week and they didn’t seem to be chatting much,” reports one member of the beach club. “The conversation was stilted. Obviously, the players all knew each other and they were having to jolly things along a bit. But by the end, the kids were playing together and the wives were comparing bikinis. We saw Posh1 playing with her little boy in the pool. You’d never think she was pregnant – she’s still very thin.”
While their menfolk sweated during training sessions in soaring temperatures and 98 per cent humidity, the Wags’ biggest dilemma was whether to baste their backs or their legs in SPF25 sunscreen, to have a manicure or buy a bikini in the resort boutique, or to cruise the sights in one of a fleet of Jaguars laid on for their transport.
1 Victoria Beckham (née Adams – born 1974) is an English businesswoman, fashion designer and former singer. As a member of the all-female pop group The Spice Girls, she was dubbed Posh Spice. Since 1999, she has been married to the English former professional footballer David Beckham (born 1975).
The second-earliest occurrence of Wags that I have found is from Buzz words, in The Editor: the best of the world’s media edited for you, published in The Guardian (London and Manchester, England) of Saturday 25th May 2002:
An acronym for the wives and girlfriends of the England World Cup football squad, who have travelled to the far east to stand by their men as the tournament kicks off
The compound Wag Club, denoting the group composed of the wives and girlfriends of the 2002 England World Cup football team, appeared in Coach tells players to keep their scoring for the pitch, by Ian Cobain in Tokyo, published in the Irish Independent (Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland) of Monday 17th June 2002:
The wives and girlfriends of England’s football stars will fly out to Japan this week but the couples may be forced to remain apart until after Friday’s match.
In a move that appears certain to inspire colourful tabloid headlines along the lines of ‘Sven2’s Nookie Ban’, the England coach is considering telling his players that they cannot meet their partners after they arrive in the country on Thursday.
[…] The players and their partners will stay in separate hotels for as long as England remains in the tournament.
While the wives and girlfriends – the so-called Wag Club – are packing their bags this week, so too are thousands of England fans who will be travelling to Japan for Friday’s match.
UK police estimate that between 2,000 and 3,500 fans will now be flying out.
2 Sven-Göran Eriksson (born 1948) is a Swedish football manager and former player.
Derived from Wags, the word Gwags (also GWags, G-Wags, GWAGs, GWAGS, G-WAGS) designates the female partners accompanying golfers at a tournament. It is—or, at least, is interpreted as—an acronym from the initial letters of golfers’ (also golfing, golf) wives and girlfriends. This word is also used in the singular, Gwag.
Gwags was coined in Ireland in reference to the 36th Ryder Cup, held from 22nd to 24th September 2006 at the Palmer Course of the K Club in Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland.
The earliest instances that I have found are from the Sunday World (Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland) of 13th August 2006:
Stunners and Ryders
Gwags rivalry set to swing as these gals putt on style
These are the glamorous golf Wags who will go head-to-head in the style stakes at the K-club next month.
The Ryder Cup Gwags (Golfing Wives and Girlfriends) enjoy a rivalry every bit as intense as the European and American teams.
And in a few weeks they will be competing in the shops, restaurants and nightclubs around Dublin as golf fever sweeps the nation.
Every stitch of designer clothing and bling jewellery will be scrutinised by Gwag-watchers in the battle to see if the chic European ladies can outdo their tanned American Barbie lookalike counterparts.
Sonya Toms also ranks in the top of the hottest Tour wives. The sultry brunette bared all for Sports Illustrated 2003, wearing only a skimpy bikini. With a body like that she will certainly be turning heads on the streets of Dublin as the players battle it out on the lush Co Kildare course.
This Gwag cannot be accused of being a goldigger [sic] though, as she met husband David3 before he made it as a pro.
3 David Toms (born 1967) is an American professional golfer.
illustration from the Sunday World (Dublin) of 13th August 2006:
Tiger Woods4 and stunning Elin Nordegren5
4 Tiger Woods (born 1975) is an American professional golfer; he was married to Elin Nordegren from 2004 to 2010.
5 Elin Nordegren (born 1980) is a Swedish former model.
The following contains interesting remarks about Wag (unknown to the American woman) and Wams (a recently coined acronym from wives and mothers)—it is from The GWags, the nags . . . and don’t forget your goody bags, by Kathy Sheridan, published in The Irish Times (Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland) of Wednesday 20th September 2006:
The Golfers’ Wives and Girlfriends (GWags) might as well have pitched up beside any old paddock in Co Kildare (where a pair of thoroughbreds is de rigueur in any self-respecting garden) for all they saw of the Curragh yesterday. Kathy Sheridan reports from the Curragh.
Delivered by bus to the door of their little tent, stashed away on the non-punter side of the track, with only the Million Pavilion (Ronan Keating et al) next door for company, the sharper Gwags would have found a few clues to their whereabouts.
The two Queen GWags did emerge to present a trophy. Glendryth (Glen) Woosnam6, in her neat suit and hat, looking like she’d escaped from the set of the Darling Buds of May […].
The very glamorous, very tanned and vivacious Melissa Lehman7 had never heard the term Wag, so we had to explain about the footballers’ Wags dancing on German tables.
So does she think she’s a Wag?
“I think it’s totally appropriate,” she said. “It could be worse,” she said after a pause. “It would be Spouses And Girlfriends,” interjected a wag. “I’m certainly not going to be a Sag! I’m okay as a Wag”.
Concerned about information overload, we desisted from telling her about the Wams (Wives And Mothers), a new acronym coined in Enniscrone8, according to a golf fan.
By the sound of it, Glen and Melissa are regarded as Wams by the younger women who come to them for advice, according to Ms Woosnam.
But the happiest man we met was the one who was owed €60 by a bookie and was paid €600 instead. Some mistake clearly. Will he give it back? “Will I ****?”, he roared, in a phrase with resonances no GWag would understand.
6 Glendryth Woosnam is married to the Welsh professional golfer Ian Woosnam.
7 Melissa Lehman is married to the American professional golfer Tom Lehman.
8 Enniscrone is a small seaside town in County Sligo, where one of Ireland’s top-ranked championship golf links is.