[ teyl ]
See synonyms for: tailtailedtailertailest on Thesaurus.com

  1. the hindmost part of an animal, especially that forming a distinct, flexible appendage to the back end of its body.

  2. something resembling or suggesting this in shape or position: the tail of a kite.

  1. Astronomy. the luminous stream extending from the head of a comet.

  2. the reverse of a coin (opposed to head).

  3. Aeronautics. the after portion of an airplane or the like.

  4. tails,

    • the tapering skirts or ends at the back of a coat, especially a tail coat.

    • men's full-dress attire.

    • Distilling. alcohol obtained in the final distillation.: Compare head (def. 22).

  5. Slang. the buttocks or rump.

  6. 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.

  7. Informal. the area directly behind a person in motion; the wake or trail of a person: They put a detective on his tail.The car behind me was riding my tail far too closely.

  8. Slang: Vulgar.

    • sexual intercourse.

    • Usually Disparaging and Offensive. a woman considered as a sex object.

  9. the hinder, bottom, or end part of anything; the rear.

  10. 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.

  11. the inferior or unwanted part of anything.

  12. a long braid or tress of hair.

  13. an arrangement of objects or persons extending as or as if a tail.

  14. a line of persons awaiting their turns at something; queue.

  15. a retinue; train.

  16. the lower part of a pool or stream.

  17. the exposed portion of a piece of roofing, as a slate.

  18. Printing, Bookbinding. the bottom of a page or book.

  19. Printing. the lower portion of a type, as of g, y, or Q.

  1. coming from behind: a tail breeze.

  2. being in the back or rear: the tail section of a plane.

verb (used with object)
  1. Informal. to follow in order to hinder escape of or to observe: to tail a suspect.

  2. to form or furnish with a tail.

  1. to form or constitute the tail or end of (a procession, retinue, etc.).

  2. to terminate; come after or behind; follow like a tail.

  3. to join or attach (one thing) at the tail or end of another.

  4. Building Trades. to fasten (a beam, stone, etc.) by one end (usually followed by in or into).

  5. to dock the tail of (a horse, dog, etc.).

verb (used without object)
  1. to follow close behind: She always tails after her sister.

  2. to disappear gradually or merge into: The path tails off into the woods.

  1. to form, or move or pass in, a line or column suggestive of a tail: The hikers tailed up the narrow path.

  2. (of a boat) to have or take a position with the stern in a particular direction.

  3. Building Trades. (of a beam, stone, etc.) to be fastened by one end (usually followed by in or into).

Idioms about tail

  1. 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.

  2. with one's tail between one's legs, utterly humiliated; in defeat; dejectedly: They were forced to retreat with their tails between their legs.

Origin of tail

First recorded before 900; Middle English; Old English tægl, tægel; cognate with Old Norse tagl “horse's tail,” Gothic tagl “(single) hair,” Middle High German zagel “tail,” Middle Low German tagel “rope, rope-end, scourge”

usage note For tail

The meanings “sexual intercourse” and “female sexual partner” are both vulgar slang. When referring to a person, the term tail is usually used with disparaging intent and perceived as insulting.

Other words from tail

  • tailer, noun
  • tailless, adjective
  • tail·less·ly, adverb
  • tail·less·ness, noun
  • taillike, adjective

Words that may be confused with tail

Words Nearby tail

Other definitions for tail (2 of 2)

[ teyl ]

  1. the limitation of an estate to a person and the person’s heirs or some particular class of such heirs.

  1. limited to a specified line of heirs; entailed.

Origin of tail

First recorded in 1200–50; (noun) Middle English taille, from Old French, derivative of taillier “to cut,” from Late Latin tāliāre (see tailor1); (adjective) late Middle English taille, from Anglo-French tailé “cut, shaped, limited,” past participle of tailler

Other words from tail

  • tailless, adjective

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use tail in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for tail (1 of 2)


/ (teɪl) /

  1. 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 appendage: Related adjective: caudal

  2. anything resembling such an appendage in form or position; the bottom, lowest, or rear part: the tail of a shirt

  1. the last part or parts: the tail of the storm

  2. the rear part of an aircraft including the fin, tailplane, and control surfaces; empennage

  3. 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

  4. the rear portion of a bomb, rocket, missile, etc, usually fitted with guiding or stabilizing vanes

  5. a line of people or things

  6. a long braid or tress of hair: a ponytail; a pigtail

  7. Also called: tailfly angling the lowest fly on a wet-fly cast

  8. a final short line in a stanza

  9. informal a person employed to follow and spy upon another or others

  10. an informal word for buttocks: See buttock

  11. taboo, slang

    • the female genitals

    • a woman considered sexually (esp in the phrases piece of tail, bit of tail)

  12. printing

    • the margin at the foot of a page

    • the bottom edge of a book

  13. the lower end of a pool or part of a stream

  14. informal the course or track of a fleeing person or animal: the police are on my tail

  15. (modifier) coming from or situated in the rear: a tail wind

  16. turn tail to run away; escape

  17. with one's tail between one's legs in a state of utter defeat or confusion

  1. to form or cause to form the tail

  2. to remove the tail of (an animal); dock

  1. (tr) to remove the stalk of: to top and tail the gooseberries

  2. (tr) to connect (objects, ideas, etc) together by or as if by the tail

  3. (tr) informal to follow stealthily

  4. (tr) Australian to tend (cattle) on foot

  5. (intr) (of a vessel) to assume a specified position, as when at a mooring

  6. 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

Origin of tail

Old English tægel; related to Old Norse tagl horse's tail, Gothic tagl hair, Old High German zagal tail

Derived forms of tail

  • tailless, adjective
  • taillessly, adverb
  • taillessness, noun
  • tail-like, adjective

British Dictionary definitions for tail (2 of 2)


/ (teɪl) property law /

  1. the limitation of an estate or interest to a person and the heirs of his body: See also entail

  1. (immediately postpositive) (of an estate or interest) limited in this way

Origin of tail

C15: from Old French taille a division; see tailor, tally

Derived forms of tail

  • tailless, adjective

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

Scientific definitions for tail


[ tāl ]

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Other Idioms and Phrases with tail


In addition to the idioms beginning with tail

  • tail between one's legs, with one's
  • tail end
  • tail off
  • tail wagging the dog, the

also see:

  • bright-eyed and bushy-tailed
  • can't make head or tail of
  • get off one's tail
  • heads or tails
  • in two shakes (of a lamb's tail)
  • on someone's coattails
  • tiger by the tail
  • turn tail
  • work one's fingers to the bone (tail off)

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.