The Enneagram wings help to explain why two people of the same Enneagram type can appear so different.
Generally, an individual will have a preference for one wing over the other. This is called the preferred wing or dominant wing.
For example, if someone who primarily identifies as type 9 also identifies more with type 8 than type 1 then they are said to be a 9 wing 8 (9w8). If that same person were to identify more with type 1 than type 8 then they'd be considered a 9 wing 1 (9w1).
Two variations of each type
Type 1 wing 9 (1w9) - preferred 9 wing
Common Name: The Idealist
- more likely to keep the peace
- more emotionally reserved
- more impersonal and dispassionate
Type 1 wing 2 (1w2) - preferred 2 wing
Common Name: The Advocate
- more easily expresses anger
- more responsive to others' needs
- more interpersonal and passionate
Type 2 wing 1 (2w1) - preferred 1 wing
Common Name: The Servant
- more dutifully of service
- more self-critical and unselfish
- more emotionaly restrained
Type 2 wing 3 (2w3) - preferred 3 wing
Common Name: The Host/Hostess
- more ambitous and goal oriented
- more attention seeking and image oriented
- more direct about what they want
Type 3 wing 2 (3w2) - preferred 2 wing
Common Name: The Charmer
- more emotional and helpful
- more desirous of popularity and admiration
- more able to shift image as needed
Type 3 wing 4 (3w4) - preferred 4 wing
Common Name: The Professional
- more serious and task-oriented
- more about producing and being competent
- more driven to attain or embody perfection
Type 4 wing 3 (4w3) - preferred 3 wing
Common Name: The Aristocrat
- more ambitious and goal oriented
- more effort toward recognition and presentation
- more practical and competitive
Type 4 wing 5 (4w5) - preferred 5 wing
Common Name: The Bohemian
- more defiant of convention
- more minimalistic and private
- more dwelling in their imagination
Type 5 wing 4 (5w4) - preferred 4 wing
Common Name: The Iconoclast
- more imaginative than analytic
- deals more with symbolic representation
- more peaceful and going along
Type 5 wing 6 (5w6) - preferred 6 wing
Common Name: The Problem-Solver
- more technically oriented
- deals more with factual details
- more contrary and argumentative
Type 6 wing 5 (6w5) - preferred 5 wing
Common Name: The Defender
- more contrary and serious
- more dutiful and responsible
- more anti-authoritarian and reactionary
Type 6 wing 7 (6w7) - preferred 7 wing
Common Name: The Buddy
- more self-deprecating and disarming
- more dependent upon others
- more eager to be liked and have fun
Type 7 wing 6 (7w6) - preferred 6 wing
Common Name: The Entertainer
- more playful and optimistic
- more concerned with being liked
- more sensitive and agreeable
Type 7 wing 8 (7w8) - preferred 8 wing
Common Name: The Realist
- more practical and realistic
- more aggressive in getting needs met
- more direct and opinionated
Type 8 wing 7 (8w7) - preferred 7 wing
Common Name: The Independent
- more active and goal oriented
- more aggressive and competitive
- more impatient and impulsive
Type 8 wing 9 (8w9) - preferred 9 wing
Common Name: The Bear
- more laid-back and grounded
- more reserved and steady
- more prone to comfort and routine
Type 9 wing 8 (9w8) - preferred 8 wing
Common Name: The Referee
- merges more with their surroundings
- can have angry outbursts then forget
- wants to keep things comfortable
Type 9 wing 1 (9w1) - preferred 1 wing
Common Name: The Dreamer
- filters for the consensus opinion
- more reserved and less adventurous
- more of an observer and thinker
Why the two types on either side?
Each Enneagram type is said to be a product of the types on either side. For example type 9 can be understood as being caught between types 8 and 1.
Type 8 is about making things happen in the external world, getting things moving. Type 1 is about doing things in a way that aligns with an internalized sense of correctness. Type 9 can have difficulty or confusion with initiating movement on their own, a struggle between external and internal motivations for action. As a result, the tendency is often to just go along with what's happening around them, either resolving that struggle at a later time or simply disregarding it.
Because it's the types on either side that have this influence, the term "wings" was used to reference these two adjacent types.
The preferred wing is not your secondary type
People new to the Enneagram types sometimes assume that their wing is the second most influential type. They might take a test that ranks the types from highest to lowest score. While the highest scoring type is likely their primary type they might assume that the next highest score is their wing type.
For example, someone might have type 9 as their highest score and type 5 as their second highest score and assume they're a type 9 with a 5 wing (9w5). The problem with that assumption is that the wing is NOT your secondary type. The wing is a variation of your primary type. You don't look at the second highest score, you compare the scores of the wing types instead.
Both wing types have an influence
While your preferred wing will have more of an influence than the other wing, both wings have an influence to some degree.
Some say that you develop both wings over your lifetime to the point that your wings become more balanced.
Wings don't work for everyone
The point of the wings is to gain a more nuanced understanding of your type. It's not to force fit you into a category.
Like many other concepts with the Enneagram types, if you find wings useful then use them. If not then don't.