- the hindmost part of an animal, especially that forming a distinct, flexible appendage to the trunk.
- something resembling or suggesting this in shape or position: the tail of a kite.
- Astronomy. the luminous stream extending from the head of a comet.
- the reverse of a coin (opposed to head).
- Aeronautics. the after portion of an airplane or the like.
- Slang. the buttocks or rump.
- Informal. a person who trails or keeps a close surveillance of another, as a detective or spy: The police decided to put a tail on the suspect.
- Informal. the trail of a fleeing person or animal: They put a detective on his tail.
- Slang: Vulgar.
- sexual intercourse.
- Usually Disparaging and Offensive.a woman considered as a sex object.
- the hinder, bottom, or end part of anything; the rear.
- a final or concluding part of a sentence, conversation, social gathering, etc.; conclusion; end: The tail of the speech was boring. Toward the tail of the concert I'd begun to get tired.
- the inferior or unwanted part of anything.
- a long braid or tress of hair.
- an arrangement of objects or persons extending as or as if a tail.
- a line of persons awaiting their turns at something; queue.
- a retinue; train.
- the lower part of a pool or stream.
- the exposed portion of a piece of roofing, as a slate.
- Printing, Bookbinding. the bottom of a page or book.
- Printing. the lower portion of a type, as of g, y, or Q.
- coming from behind: a tail breeze.
- being in the back or rear: the tail section of a plane.
- Informal. to follow in order to hinder escape of or to observe: to tail a suspect.
- to form or furnish with a tail.
- to form or constitute the tail or end of (a procession, retinue, etc.).
- to terminate; come after or behind; follow like a tail.
- to join or attach (one thing) at the tail or end of another.
- Building Trades. to fasten (a beam, stone, etc.) by one end (usually followed by in or into).
- to dock the tail of (a horse, dog, etc.).
- to follow close behind: She always tails after her sister.
- to disappear gradually or merge into: The path tails off into the woods.
- to form, or move or pass in, a line or column suggestive of a tail: The hikers tailed up the narrow path.
- (of a boat) to have or take a position with the stern in a particular direction.
- Building Trades. (of a beam, stone, etc.) to be fastened by one end (usually followed by in or into).
- turn tail,
- to turn one's back on, as in aversion or fright.
- to run away from difficulty, opposition, etc.; flee: The sight of superior forces made the attackers turn tail.
- with one's tail between one's legs, utterly humiliated; defeated; cowed: They were forced to retreat with their tails between their legs.
Origin of tail1
- the region of the vertebrate body that is posterior to or above the anus and contains an elongation of the vertebral column, esp forming a flexible movable appendageRelated adjective: caudal
- anything resembling such an appendage in form or position; the bottom, lowest, or rear partthe tail of a shirt
- the last part or partsthe tail of the storm
- the rear part of an aircraft including the fin, tailplane, and control surfaces; empennage
- astronomy the luminous stream of gas and dust particles, up to 200 million kilometres long, driven from the head of a comet, when close to the sun, under the effect of the solar wind and light pressure
- the rear portion of a bomb, rocket, missile, etc, usually fitted with guiding or stabilizing vanes
- a line of people or things
- a long braid or tress of haira ponytail; a pigtail
- Also called: tailfly angling the lowest fly on a wet-fly cast
- a final short line in a stanza
- informal a person employed to follow and spy upon another or others
- an informal word for buttocksSee buttock
- taboo, slang
- the female genitals
- a woman considered sexually (esp in the phrases piece of tail, bit of tail)
- the margin at the foot of a page
- the bottom edge of a book
- the lower end of a pool or part of a stream
- informal the course or track of a fleeing person or animalthe police are on my tail
- (modifier) coming from or situated in the reara tail wind
- turn tail to run away; escape
- with one's tail between one's legs in a state of utter defeat or confusion
- to form or cause to form the tail
- to remove the tail of (an animal); dock
- (tr) to remove the stalk ofto top and tail the gooseberries
- (tr) to connect (objects, ideas, etc) together by or as if by the tail
- (tr) informal to follow stealthily
- (tr) Australian to tend (cattle) on foot
- (intr) (of a vessel) to assume a specified position, as when at a mooring
- to build the end of (a brick, joist, etc) into a wall or (of a brick, etc) to have one end built into a wall
- the limitation of an estate or interest to a person and the heirs of his bodySee also entail
- (immediately postpositive) (of an estate or interest) limited in this way
Word Origin and History for turn tail
"limitation of ownership," a legal term, early 14c. in Anglo-French; late 13c. in Anglo-Latin, in most cases a shortened form of entail.
"follow secretly," U.S. colloquial, 1907, is from earlier sense of "follow or drive cattle," from tail (n.1). Related: Tailed; tailing. Tail off "diminish" is attested from 1854.
"hindmost part of an animal," Old English tægl, tægel, from Proto-Germanic *tagla- (cf. Old High German zagal, German Zagel "tail," dialectal German Zagel "penis," Old Norse tagl "horse's tail"), from PIE *doklos, from root *dek- "something long and thin" (referring to such things as fringe, lock of hair, horsetail; cf. Old Irish dual "lock of hair," Sanskrit dasah "fringe, wick"). The primary sense, at least in Germanic, seems to have been "hairy tail," or just "tuft of hair," but already in Old English the word was applied to the hairless "tails" of worms, bees, etc. Another Old English word for "tail" was steort (see stark).
Meaning "reverse side of a coin" is from 1680s; that of "backside of a person, buttocks" is recorded from c.1300; slang sense of "pudenda" is from mid-14c.; that of "woman as sex object" is from 1933, earlier "prostitute" (1846). The tail-race (1776) is the part of a mill race below the wheel. To turn tail "take flight" (1580s) originally was a term in falconry. The image of the tail wagging the dog is attested from 1907.
- The posterior part of an animal, especially when elongated and extending beyond the trunk or main part of the body.
- The rear, elongated part of many animals, extending beyond the trunk or main part of the body. Tails are used variously for balance, combat, communication, mating displays, fat storage, propulsion and course correction in water, and course correction in air.
- A long, stream of gas or dust forced from the head of a comet when it is close to the Sun. Tails can be up to 150 million km (93 million miles) long, and they always point away from the Sun because of the force of the solar wind.♦ Plasma tails, or ion tails, appear bluish and straight and narrow, and are formed when solar wind forces ionized gas to stream off the coma. Dust tails are wide and curved, and are formed when solar heat forces trails of dust off the coma; solid particles reflecting the Sun's light create their bright yellow color.
Idioms and Phrases with turn tail
Run away, as in When they heard the sirens, the boys turned tail. This term alludes to an animal's turning its back in flight. [Mid-1500s]
In addition to the idioms beginning with tail