noun Also tail spin.

a sudden and helpless collapse into failure, confusion, or the like.

verb (used without object), tail·spinned, tail·spin·ning.

to take or experience a sudden and dramatic downturn: After the mill closes, the local economy may tailspin.

Origin of tailspin

First recorded in 1910–15; tail1 + spin
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tail-spin

Contemporary Examples of tail-spin

  • Introduce the concept of King Charles and Queen Camilla, and the numbers go into a tail-spin (even I get queasy).

    The Daily Beast logo
    Republicans in the UK!

    Tom Sykes

    May 20, 2012

Historical Examples of tail-spin

British Dictionary definitions for tail-spin



aeronautics another name for spin (def. 16)
informal a state of confusion or panic
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 tail-spin



"downward spiraling dive of an aircraft," 1916, from tail (n.1) + spin (n.). Figurative sense of "state of loss of control" is from 1928.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with tail-spin


see go into a tailspin.

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