verb (used without object)

to swerve or skid from side to side, as the rear end of a car.
to slow an airplane by causing its tail to move rapidly from side to side.


such a maneuver.
a gas burner having two jets crossing each other so as to produce a flame resembling a fish's tail.
a device having a long, narrow slot at the top, placed over a gas jet, as of a Bunsen burner, to give a thin, fanlike flame.
Jewelry. a setting consisting of four prominent triangular corner prongs to hold the stone.

Origin of fishtail

1400–50; late Middle English. See fish, tail1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for fish-tail

Historical Examples of fish-tail

  • The other, shaped like a fish-tail, sent it to right or left.

  • There was a train of a fish-tail sort, a little twitching afterthought.

  • The gas-jet is on at the full—or rather the tap is, for the fish-tail burner doesn't realise its ideal.

    Somehow Good

    William de Morgan

  • A blast-lamp is likely to be more useful here than the fish-tail burner.

  • But Bob was made of different stuff, and he began now to work the boat along by paddling softly, fish-tail fashion.


    George Manville Fenn

British Dictionary definitions for fish-tail



an aeroplane manoeuvre in which the tail is moved from side to side to reduce speed
a nozzle having a long narrow slot at the top, placed over a Bunsen burner to produce a thin fanlike flame

verb (intr)

to slow an aeroplane by moving the tail from side to side
to drive with the rear of the vehicle moving from side to side in an uncontrolled fashion
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 fish-tail



1840, from fish (n.) + tail (n.). As a verb, 1927, originally of aircraft, later automobiles. Related: Fishtailed; fishtailing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper