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noun Carpentry.
  1. a tenon broader at its end than at its base; pin.
  2. a joint formed of one or more such tenons fitting tightly within corresponding mortises.
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verb (used with or without object)
  1. Carpentry. to join or fit together by means of a dovetail or dovetails.
  2. to join or fit together compactly or harmoniously.
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Origin of dovetail

First recorded in 1555–65; so named from its shape
Related formsdove·tail·er, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for dovetail


  1. a wedge-shaped tenon
  2. Also called: dovetail joint a joint containing such tenons
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  1. (tr) to join by means of dovetails
  2. to fit or cause to fit together closely or neatlyhe dovetailed his arguments to the desired conclusion
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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 dovetail

late 16c. (n.), 1650s (v.), from dove (n.) + tail. So called from resemblance of shape in the tenon or mortise of the joints to that of the bird’s tailfeather display. Related: Dovetailed.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper