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Wog is a word with two meanings, one commonly derogatory, the other not.

Table of contents
1 Wog as a racial reference
2 Wog in maritime use

Wog as a racial reference

British racial term originating in the colonial period of the British Empire. It was generally used as a label for the natives of India, northern Africa and the Middle East. More recently, it has come to refer to any non-local, including people from other towns and cities in England.

The origins of the term are unclear. Many dictionaries guess that it comes from the term golliwog (or golliwogg), a blackfaced doll with tangled hair. Other theories hold that it is an acronym. Several possibilities are offered up, the most believable of which is "Working On Government Service", a label displayed on the clothing of non-British workers during the construction of the Suez Canal. Some other possibilities are:

It should be noted, however, that the use of the word is being very much discouraged in Britain these days, and most dictionaries refer to the word with the justified caution that it is slang and derogatory, and the depiction of the little golliwog (for example, on one brand of marmalade jars) has also been withdrawn from public use. If shouted at someone in the street the usage is generally derogatory. If used in some portions of society in casual conversation its intent is sometimes as a non-derogatory "not us" identifier. It would be unwise to use it in polite company.

Wog as a racial reference in Australian English

Wog is also a derogatory slang term in Australian English, specificially directed against people from Italy, Greece and the Balkans though occasionally extending to people from other parts of Europe or the Levant. This meaning came into use in the 1950s when Australia accepted large numbers of immigrants from Southern Europe. Some contemporary Australians comedians from Italian or Greek cultures in Australia have attempted to reclaim the use of the word, but like all racial or ethnic epithets it remains a heavily loaded word.

Wog in maritime use

Wog is a shortened version of the word polywog, used for sailors during the crossing the line ceremony, on the first time they cross the equator. This use is entirely non-derogatory and is not limited to British English.