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 tailspin

Contemporary Examples of tailspin

Historical Examples of tailspin

  • As she stepped inside this gigantic barrel her mind went into a tailspin.

  • Yes, he had all but gone into a tailspin, and that with his motor thundering at its best.

  • Instantly the heavy plane went into a tailspin and plunged earthward.

  • She side-slipped, her nose dipped down, an she went into a tailspin.

    Famous Flyers

    David Goodger (goodger@python.org)

  • A warning from the observation towersomebody was in tailspin.

    Famous Flyers

    David Goodger (goodger@python.org)

British Dictionary definitions for tailspin



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 tailspin

"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 tailspin


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.