Sally M (sallymn) wrote in 1word1day,
Sally M

Sunday Word: Chinwag

chinwag [chin-wag]

(informal British) a chat, an idle or informal conversation, usually about everyday matters, a gossip
(informal British) have a chat


She's great to have a chinwag with too on the route home when you feel relieved that your child/children made it to school with everything they need and their bottle didn't leak in their book bag. (Beth Duffell, Adored, neglected, and restored: A 1968 Nat Geo feature explored Notre Dame, SurreyLive, February 2020)

Usually it’s seen as a pact between audience and performers that you have to put up with what is on stage in front of you, and can't have a chinwag with the producers afterwards, asking them to carry out alterations. (David Lister, Since when is the audience allowed to change the script?, Independent, February 2015)

As we chinwagged about the podcast and all things horror, it became clear that this wasn’t the only thing that was spot on about this lovely guy. So, too, was his killer sense of humour. (Steven Allison, Interview: Mitch Bain from 'Strong Language and Violent Scenes', The Nerd Daily, Nov 2005)

After our meetings were officially brought to an end in 1959, I continued to see Alec as usual for the chinwag we enjoyed so much. (Paul Bailey, The Prince's Boy)

Though still early there were groups of loiterers and habitués congregating at the usual and customary storefront vantage points to chinwag, speculate, and take in the consequential and insignificant comings and goings. (Ken R Abell, Shadows of Revenge)


First recorded in 1875–80; chin + wag (

To have a chinwag in current usage is to have a gossip or a wide-ranging conversation on some mutually interesting subject. It goes back a long way. As an example of the byways that searches can take one down, the earliest example I've found is from the North Lincoln Sphinx, a regimental journal prepared by and for the officers and men of the second battalion of the North Lincolnshire Regiment of Foot. The issue for 28 February 1861, prepared while the battalion was based in Grahamstown, South Africa, included some jokey revised 'rules' of whist, whose first item was "Chinwag is considered rather as an addition to the game, than otherwise, and is allowed." A footnote said that it was an "American slang term for excessive talking."

I wonder if the footnoter is right. All the early examples are British, including this one from Punch in 1879: "I'd just like to have a bit of chin-wag with you on the quiet." The English slang recorder, John Camden Hotten, included it in the second edition of his Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant and Vulgar Words in 1873, but intriguingly defined it as 'officious impertinence'. It was more often used in the sense of those whist rules to mean inconsequential talk or idle chatter or to suggest unkindly that some person couldn't stop talking. Wagging one's chin, indeed. (World Wide Words)

Tags: british, c, english, informal, noun, verb, wordsmith: sallymn

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