turn tail,
    1. to turn one's back on, as in aversion or fright.
    2. to run away from difficulty, opposition, etc.; flee: The sight of superior forces made the attackers turn tail.
    with one's tail between one's legs, utterly humiliated; defeated; cowed: They were forced to retreat with their tails between their legs.

Origin of tail

before 900; Middle English; Old English tægl; cognate with Old Norse tagl horse's tail, Gothic tagl hair, Middle High German zagel tail, Middle Low German tagel rope-end
Related formstail·er, nountail·less, adjectivetail·less·ly, adverbtail·less·ness, nountail·like, adjective
Can be confusedtail tale

Usage note

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.




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


limited to a specified line of heirs; entailed.

Origin of tail

1200–50; (noun) Middle English taille < Old French, derivative of taillier to cut < Late Latin tāliāre (see tailor1); (adj.) late Middle English taille < Anglo-French tailé cut, shaped, limited, past participle of tailler
Related formstail·less, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tailer

Historical Examples of tailer

  • The office of lieutenant-governor was his until 1730, when he was succeeded by Lieutenant-governor Tailer.

    Historic Homes

    Mary H. Northend

  • This branch of the subject is dealt with completely, and with experienced competency, by Mr. Tailer in the next chapter.

    Riding and Driving

    Edward L. Anderson

  • The Tailer, a species of bully employed to get rid of any dupe who, having discovered the swindle, returned to expose it.

  • I knew Mr. Tailer, and am pleased in cherishing recollections of him.

British Dictionary definitions for tailer




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 appendageRelated adjective: caudal
anything resembling such an appendage in form or position; the bottom, lowest, or rear partthe tail of a shirt
the last part or partsthe tail of the storm
the rear part of an aircraft including the fin, tailplane, and control surfaces; empennage
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
the rear portion of a bomb, rocket, missile, etc, usually fitted with guiding or stabilizing vanes
a line of people or things
a long braid or tress of haira ponytail; a pigtail
Also called: tailfly angling the lowest fly on a wet-fly cast
a final short line in a stanza
informal a person employed to follow and spy upon another or others
an informal word for buttocksSee buttock
taboo, slang
  1. the female genitals
  2. a woman considered sexually (esp in the phrases piece of tail, bit of tail)
  1. the margin at the foot of a page
  2. the bottom edge of a book
the lower end of a pool or part of a stream
informal the course or track of a fleeing person or animalthe police are on my tail
(modifier) coming from or situated in the reara tail wind
turn tail to run away; escape
with one's tail between one's legs in a state of utter defeat or confusion


to form or cause to form the tail
to remove the tail of (an animal); dock
(tr) to remove the stalk ofto top and tail the gooseberries
(tr) to connect (objects, ideas, etc) together by or as if by the tail
(tr) informal to follow stealthily
(tr) Australian to tend (cattle) on foot
(intr) (of a vessel) to assume a specified position, as when at a mooring
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
Derived Formstailless, adjectivetaillessly, adverbtaillessness, nountail-like, adjective

Word Origin for tail

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




the limitation of an estate or interest to a person and the heirs of his bodySee also entail


(immediately postpositive) (of an estate or interest) limited in this way
Derived Formstailless, adjective

Word Origin for tail

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



"limitation of ownership," a legal term, early 14c. in Anglo-French; late 13c. in Anglo-Latin, in most cases a shortened form of entail.



"follow secretly," U.S. colloquial, 1907, is from earlier sense of "follow or drive cattle," from tail (n.1). Related: Tailed; tailing. Tail off "diminish" is attested from 1854.



"hindmost part of an animal," Old English tægl, tægel, from Proto-Germanic *tagla- (cf. Old High German zagal, German Zagel "tail," dialectal German Zagel "penis," Old Norse tagl "horse's tail"), from PIE *doklos, from root *dek- "something long and thin" (referring to such things as fringe, lock of hair, horsetail; cf. Old Irish dual "lock of hair," Sanskrit dasah "fringe, wick"). The primary sense, at least in Germanic, seems to have been "hairy tail," or just "tuft of hair," but already in Old English the word was applied to the hairless "tails" of worms, bees, etc. Another Old English word for "tail" was steort (see stark).

Meaning "reverse side of a coin" is from 1680s; that of "backside of a person, buttocks" is recorded from c.1300; slang sense of "pudenda" is from mid-14c.; that of "woman as sex object" is from 1933, earlier "prostitute" (1846). The tail-race (1776) is the part of a mill race below the wheel. To turn tail "take flight" (1580s) originally was a term in falconry. The image of the tail wagging the dog is attested from 1907.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

tailer in Medicine




The posterior part of an animal, especially when elongated and extending beyond the trunk or main part of the body.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

tailer in Science



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.
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.

Idioms and Phrases with tailer


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.