black swallowtail


  1. the tail of a swallow or a deeply forked tail like that of a swallow.
  2. any of several butterflies of the genus Papilio, characterized by elongated hind wings that resemble the tail of a swallow, as P. polyxenes (black swallowtail).Compare spicebush swallowtail, tiger swallowtail, zebra swallowtail.
  3. tail coat.

Origin of swallowtail

First recorded in 1535–45; swallow2 + tail1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for black swallowtail


  1. any of various butterflies of the genus Papilio and related genera, esp P. machaon of Europe, having a tail-like extension of each hind wing: family Papilionidae
  2. the forked tail of a swallow or similar bird
  3. short for swallow-tailed coat
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for black swallowtail


1540s, of a type of arrowhead, from swallow (n.) + tail (n.). Of a type of butterfly, by 1776; of a type of coat, 1835.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper