I have been seeing the following post making the rounds on social media today:

tag meme

How old were you when you learned that the game TAG stands for "Touch and Go"?

I was today years old...

Now even at first glance this raised my eyebrow. So I did some quick research and nothing is said on the Wikipedia page and it would seem the game even has its own unique definition in the dictionary

A children's game in which one chases the rest, and anyone who is caught then becomes the pursuer.

which would seem to come from the primary definition

A label attached to someone or something for the purpose of identification or to give other information.

since you yell "Tag, you're it" as part of the game.

My question is, is there any evidence that tag is an acronym for "Touch and Go"? Is is possible this is technically another game, and not the centuries old children's game? Or is this just another case of "Everything you read on the internet is true. - Abraham Lincoln"

  • 8
    I'm over 60, and I only just "learned" this etymology two minutes ago when I read this question. But one minute ago I "unlearned" it, having consulted the full OED. That's behind a paywall, but I'm sure you could find other open-access sources confirming their assertion that it's from Scottish / Northern English dialectal tig = A touch: usually a light but significant touch, a tap or pat. Your suggested etymology is "interesting", but completely fanciful. Jul 17, 2018 at 14:28
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    Aside from some modern technical or organisational words with a well-documented history, claims that English words arose as acronyms are almost always complete hogwash.
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 17, 2018 at 14:35
  • 2
    There's a related question at sceptics.se as well
    – Chris H
    Jul 17, 2018 at 16:29
  • 1
    The reference to “tig” is interesting as when I was a child in north Northumberland in the 1960s we played “tig” or “tiggy”. One game I remember was “tiggy on high” where participants were safe if they were off the ground. We also said “skinch” or “skinchies” if we needed to leave the game temporarily.
    – Joanna
    Jul 17, 2018 at 21:32
  • 1
    related questions on other SEs: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/41763/… and history.stackexchange.com/questions/47224/…
    – DavePhD
    Jul 18, 2018 at 13:51

5 Answers 5


It seems to me that "touch and go" is nothing more than a backronym (Wikipedia).

From the Online Etymology Dictionary entry for tag (n.2):

"children's game," 1738 (in reference to "Queen Mary's reign"), perhaps a variation of Scottish tig "touch, tap" (1721), probably an alteration of Middle English tek "touch, tap" (see tick (n.2)). Baseball sense is from 1912.

What raised my eyebrow more than that was I was today years old . . .

  • 2
    "Today years old" is extremely common current internet slang to express the idea that someone has just learned some fact that's new to them. Type the phrase into the twitter search bar (with quotes) and you'll get pages and pages of results just from this week alone. May 11, 2021 at 16:53

According to this, the Touch and Go acronym is specific to competitive go-karting. https://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com/TAG


It has to be made up, as the name "tag" is an older name for the game. Tag is likely a corruption from the old english word "tick" from the Germanic/Dutch "tikken" (to touch or pat lightly). Evidence of tick being in usage is documented from around the 16th century. Also, tig, probably a corruption of tick, was around from the 1800's. I only know this as I did a bit of etymology research - where I am from, we still say "tick" and we get told we are wrong! Yet it appears we have a stronger case than tag, tig or it! So in my opinion, Tag is definitely not an acronym for "touch and go".


This meme is actually false. @Jane Wills Johnstone, I agree. As stated from Wikipedia, Meriam-Webster debunked it, and there is no current meaning or origin behind tag.

If you want to see more information on the playground game, tag, this Wikipedia page explains what it is, but more important to your question, what it means.


How old were you when you learned that the game TAG stands for "Touch and Go"?

This is pure, unadulterated ignorance trying to pass itself off as an "interesting fact". The clue is in one meaning of the verb to tag:


tag, v.1 1 a. transitive. To furnish or mark with or as with a tag (in various senses).

1627 W. Hawkins Apollo Shroving ii. i. 20 What did you give me? Nothing but a dozen of rotten silke points. You must tagge them better ere I trusse up your request.

At this stage, it becomes apparent that in a game of "tag", the person has been "marked" or tagged by being touched.

Tag (v) 1. transitive. To touch or hit (a person), as in the game of tag; = tig v.

[tig (n.) 2. A children's game, in which one of the players—usually designated tig or it—pursues the others until he overtakes and touches or ‘tigs’ one, who in his turn becomes ‘tig’: the same as tag n.2 Cf. tick n.3 1b, and Sanders Wörterb. (1865) Der Zeck, ein Spiel der Kinder, wobei eins dem Andern einen Schlag giebt.]

tag, v.2

Etymology: < tag n.2

  1. transitive. To touch or hit (a person), as in the game of tag;

1878 F. H. Hart Sazerac Lying Club 166 One of them, who had been ‘tagged’ seven times in succession, got tired, and proposed to change to playing house.

1891 Jrnl. Amer. Folk-lore 4 222 One player, who is ‘it’, attempts to tag, or touch, one of the other players.

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