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Wag the Dog

Definition of Wag the Dog

Phrase in English that literally translated into Spanish is “wags the dog”. In this context, its meaning is not very clear or does not apply to Spanish speakers.


In this country this phrase is used to designate a “smoke screen“. That is, it is the action of hiding some fact by creating distractions that divert the attention of others.


Wag the dog is a phrase that comes from the English language and is composed of two parts, wag which is the verb “wag” and the dog which translates as “the dog”. It is literally “wag the dog” and is used in the United States to imply the act of creating “smoke screens”, that is, “distracting”.

The clear reference is that when watching a dog “wag or dance” people are distracted, while important things go unnoticed. For example, using tabloid or sensational news to divert attention from a political scandal that occurs in parallel.

Wag the dog comes exactly from wars, where a famous military tactic was to create smoke to cloud enemy vision.


Smoke screens are used quite a bit in the world of politics. Many powerful leaders use this tactic to avoid scandals against them and to keep the population entertained.

In 1997 the movie “Wag the dog” was released. In this film, a president is accused of abusing a minor and fictitiously declares war on another country to divert the attention of the people.