from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The posterior part of an animal, especially when elongated and extending beyond the trunk or main part of the body.
  • n. The bottom, rear, or hindmost part: the tail of a shirt.
  • n. The rear end of a wagon or other vehicle.
  • n. The rear portion of the fuselage of an aircraft.
  • n. An assembly of stabilizing planes and control surfaces in this rear portion.
  • n. The vaned rear portion of a bomb or missile.
  • n. An appendage to the rear or bottom of a thing: the tail of a kite.
  • n. The long luminous stream of gas and dust forced from the head of a comet when it is close to the sun.
  • n. A braid of hair; a pigtail.
  • n. Something that follows or takes the last place: the tail of a journey.
  • n. A train of followers; a retinue.
  • n. The end of a line of persons or things.
  • n. The short closing line of certain stanzas of verse.
  • n. The refuse or dross remaining from processes such as distilling or milling.
  • n. Printing The bottom of a page; the bottom margin.
  • n. The side of a coin not having the principal design and the date. Often used in the plural with a singular verb.
  • n. Informal The trail of a person or an animal in flight.
  • n. Informal A person assigned or employed to follow and report on someone else's movements and actions: The police put a tail on the suspected drug dealer.
  • n. A formal evening costume typically worn by men.
  • n. A tailcoat.
  • n. Slang The buttocks.
  • n. Vulgar Slang A sexual partner, especially a woman.
  • adj. Of or relating to a tail or tails: tail feathers.
  • adj. Situated in the tail, as of an airplane: a tail gunner.
  • transitive v. To provide with a tail: tail a kite.
  • transitive v. To deprive of a tail; dock.
  • transitive v. To serve as the tail of: The Santa Claus float tailed the parade.
  • transitive v. To connect (often dissimilar or incongruous objects) by or as if by the tail or end: tail two ideas together.
  • transitive v. Architecture To set one end of (a beam, board, or brick) into a wall.
  • transitive v. Informal To follow and keep under surveillance.
  • intransitive v. To become lengthened or spaced when moving in a line: The patrol tailed out in pairs.
  • intransitive v. Architecture To be inserted at one end into a wall, as a floor timber or beam.
  • intransitive v. Informal To follow: tailed after the leader.
  • intransitive v. Nautical To go aground with the stern foremost.
  • intransitive v. Nautical To lie or swing with the stern in a named direction, as when riding at anchor or on a mooring.
  • intransitive v. Sports To veer from a straight course in the direction of the dominant hand of the player propelling the ball: a pitch that tails away from the batter.
  • tail down To ease a heavy load down a steep slope.
  • off To diminish gradually; dwindle or subside: The fireworks tailed off into darkness.
  • n. Limitation of the inheritance of an estate to a particular party.
  • adj. Law Being in tail: a tail estate.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The caudal appendage of an animal that is attached to its posterior and near the anus.
  • n. The tail-end of an object, e.g. the rear of an aircraft's fuselage, containing the tailfin.
  • n. An object or part thereof resembling a tail in shape, such as the thongs on a cat-o'-nine-tails or other multi-tail whip.
  • n. The rear structure of an aircraft, the empennage
  • n. Specifically, the visible stream of dust and gases blown from a comet by the solar wind.
  • n. The latter part of a time period or event, or (collectively) persons or objects represented in this part.
  • n. The part of a distribution most distant from the mode; as, a long tail.
  • n. One who surreptitiously follows another.
  • n. The last four or five batsmen in the batting order, usually specialist bowlers.
  • n. The lower loop of the letters in the Roman alphabet, as in g, q or y.
  • n. The side of a coin not bearing the head; normally the side on which the monetary value of the coin is indicated; the reverse.
  • n. All the last terms of a sequence, from some term on.
  • n. The buttocks or backside.
  • n. The male member of a person or animal.
  • n. Sexual intercourse.
  • n. the stern; the back of the kayak.
  • n. limitation of inheritance to certain heirs.
  • v. To surreptitiously follow and observe.
  • v. To hold by the end; said of a timber when it rests upon a wall or other support; with in or into
  • v. To swing with the stern in a certain direction; said of a vessel at anchor.
  • adj. Limited.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Limited; abridged; reduced; curtailed.
  • n. Limitation; abridgment.
  • n. The terminal, and usually flexible, posterior appendage of an animal.
  • n. Any long, flexible terminal appendage; whatever resembles, in shape or position, the tail of an animal, as a catkin.
  • n. Hence, the back, last, lower, or inferior part of anything, -- as opposed to the head, or the superior part.
  • n. A train or company of attendants; a retinue.
  • n. The side of a coin opposite to that which bears the head, effigy, or date; the reverse; -- rarely used except in the expression “heads or tails,” employed when a coin is thrown up for the purpose of deciding some point by its fall.
  • n. The distal tendon of a muscle.
  • n. A downy or feathery appendage to certain achenes. It is formed of the permanent elongated style.
  • n.
  • n. A portion of an incision, at its beginning or end, which does not go through the whole thickness of the skin, and is more painful than a complete incision; -- called also tailing.
  • n. One of the strips at the end of a bandage formed by splitting the bandage one or more times.
  • n. A rope spliced to the strap of a block, by which it may be lashed to anything.
  • n. The part of a note which runs perpendicularly upward or downward from the head; the stem.
  • n. Same as Tailing, 4.
  • n. The bottom or lower portion of a member or part, as a slate or tile.
  • n. See Tailing, n., 5.
  • n. the long visible stream of gases, ions, or dust particles extending from the head of a comet in the direction opposite to the sun.
  • n. In some forms of rope-laying machine, pieces of rope attached to the iron bar passing through the grooven wooden top containing the strands, for wrapping around the rope to be laid.
  • n. A tailed coat; a tail coat.
  • n. In airplanes, an airfoil or group of airfoils used at the rear to confer stability.
  • n. the buttocks.
  • n. sexual intercourse, or a woman used for sexual intercourse. See also tailing{3}.
  • intransitive v. To hold by the end; -- said of a timber when it rests upon a wall or other support; -- with in or into.
  • intransitive v. To swing with the stern in a certain direction; -- said of a vessel at anchor.
  • transitive v. To follow or hang to, like a tail; to be attached closely to, as that which can not be evaded.
  • transitive v. To pull or draw by the tail.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To furnish with a tail or form with a tail, or anything called a tail; fix a tail to: as, to tail a kite or a salmon-fly.
  • To join or connect as a tail; fix in a line or in continuation.
  • To remove the tail or end of; free from any projection: as, to tail gooseberries.
  • To pull by the tail.
  • In Australia, to herd or take care of, as sheep or cattle.
  • To extend, move, pass, or form a line or continuation in some way suggestive of a tail in any sense: used in certain phrases descriptive of particular kinds of action.
  • To wind up.
  • To stop, as drinking, gradually; end by easy stages; taper off.
  • n. Something cut or carved; specifically, a tally. See tally.
  • n. A reckoning; count; amount; tally.
  • n. In law, a setting off or limitation of ownership; a state of entailment.
  • n. An entail.
  • In law, being in tail; set apart, as an estate limited to a particular line of descent.
  • To cut or carve; carve out.
  • To mark on a tally; set down.
  • To cut off or limit as a settled possession; entail; encumber or limit, as by an entail.
  • n. The end of the fiber that is combed last on a combing-machine.
  • n. The players on a side who are not counted on for runs, and who are consequently sent last to bat.
  • n. The posterior extremity of an animal, in any way distinguished from the rest of the body; the hind end or hinder part of the body, opposite the head; especially, the coccygeal region or caudal appendage, when prolonged beyond the rest of the body.
  • n. In the Turkish empire, a horsetail, or one of two or three horsetails, formerly borne as a standard of relative rank before pashas, who were accordingly distinguished as pashas (or bashaws) of one, two, or three tails.
  • n. A taillike appendage or continuation; any terminal attachment to or prolonged part of an object comparable to the tail of an animal: as, the tail of a kite, or of the letter y; the tail of a coat (a coat-tail), or (colloquially) of a woman's long dress.
  • n. Specifically— In anatomy: The slenderest or most movable part of a muscle, or the tendon of a muscle that is attached to the part especially moved when the muscle acts; the insertion, opposite the origin or head.
  • n. The outer corner of the eye; the exterior canthus: more fully called tail of the eye.
  • n. In entomology, one of the long slender prolongations backward of the wings, as of a butterfly or moth: more fully called tail of the wing. See cut under Papilio.
  • n. Some elongated flexible part or appendage, as a proboscis or footstalk.
  • n. In astronomy, the luminous train, often of enormous length, extending from the head of a comet in a direction nearly opposite to that of the sun.
  • n. In botany, any slender terminal prolongation, as the appendage to the seeds of Clematis, Juncus, etc., or the linear extension from the base of the anther-lobes in many Compositæ. Said also sometimes of a petiole or peduncle.
  • n. In musical notation, same as stem, 6.
  • n. Nautical, a rope spliced round a block so as to leave a long end by which the block may be attached to any object. See tail-block.
  • n. Something formed like a tail; an arrangement of objects or persons extending, or imagined to extend, as a tail or train.
  • n. A line of persons awaiting their turns, as at a ticket-office or a bank; a cue.
  • n. A train of followers or attendants; a body of persons holding rank after some chief or leader; the following of a chief or commander.
  • n. The hinder, bottom, or concluding part of anything, in space or in time; the part or section opposed to the head, mass, or beginning; the termination or extremity; the back; the rear; the conclusion.
  • n. Specifically— Of a coin, the reverse, or the side opposite that bearing the head or effigy, as in the expression head or tail, or heads and tails, with reference to the side that may turn in the tossing or twirling of coins as a game. Compare cross and pile, under cross.
  • n. Of a roofing-slate or -tile, or the like, the lower or exposed part.
  • n. Of a projecting stone or brick built into a wall, the inner or covered end. Also called tailing.
  • n. plural That which is left of a mass of material after treatment, as by distillation or trituration and decantation; a residuum; tailings.
  • n. In surgery, a part of an incision at its beginning or end which does not go through the whole thickness of the skin, and is more painful than a complete incision. Also called tailing.
  • n. plural A coat with tails. See tail-coat.
  • n. In bookbinding, the bottom or lower edge of a book. The term is applied both to the paper of the text and to the cover of the book.
  • n. The handle of some kinds of rake, as of those used for oystering, etc.
  • n. In mining, the poor part, or that part deposited at the lower end of a trough in which tin ore settles as it flows from the stamps, according to the mode of ore-dressing employed in some Cornish mines.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. any projection that resembles the tail of an animal
  • v. remove or shorten the tail of an animal
  • n. the time of the last part of something
  • n. (usually plural) the reverse side of a coin that does not bear the representation of a person's head
  • n. the rear part of a ship
  • v. remove the stalk of fruits or berries
  • n. the fleshy part of the human body that you sit on
  • n. the posterior part of the body of a vertebrate especially when elongated and extending beyond the trunk or main part of the body
  • v. go after with the intent to catch
  • n. a spy employed to follow someone and report their movements
  • n. the rear part of an aircraft


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English, from Old English tægel.
Middle English taille, from Old French, division, from taillier, to cut; see tailor.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English tail, tayl, teil, from Old English tæġel, tæġl ("tail"), from Proto-Germanic *taglaz, *taglan (“hair, fiber; hair of a tail”), from Proto-Indo-European *doḱ- (“hair of the tail”), from Proto-Indo-European *deḱ- (“to tear, fray, shred”). Cognate with Scots tail ("tail"), Dutch teil ("tail, haulm, blade"), Low German tagel ("a twisted scourge, a whip of thongs and ropes, a rope"), German Zagel ("tail"), Danish dialectal tavl ("hair of the tail"), Swedish tagel ("hair of the tail, horsehair"), Norwegian tagl ("tail"), Icelandic tagl ("tail, horsetail, ponytail"), Gothic 𐍄𐌰𐌲𐌻 (tagl). In some senses, apparently by a generalization of the usual opposition between head and tail.


  • The female Lophophorus has been living on nothing for at least a week; its voice is various, sometimes not unlike that of a large hawk, at others a cackle, or low chuckle; occasionally it runs forward, erecting its crest, and spreading out its tail like a fan, the _tail being_

    Journals of Travels in Assam, Burma, Bhootan, Afghanistan and the Neighbouring Countries

  • The Indian gave him to understand that he did trade horses, but as the mule had little or no tail, and the pony a long one, "_he wanted the sugar, tobacco, and flour to make up for the tail_!"

    Three Years on the Plains Observations of Indians, 1867-1870

  • These latter, of the celebrated Shanghae breed, were the finest specimens I have seen for a long time; and the most striking peculiarity about them was the preponderance of fat to their caudal extremities, the tail of each being of an entirely different formation from that of the European breed; and I can compare it to nothing better than an immense woolly mop, "in the place where the _tail_ ought to grow."

    Kathay: A Cruise in the China Seas

  • _Dom Gianni, at the instance of his gossip Pietro, performeth a conjuration for the purpose of causing the latter's wife to become a mare; but, whenas he cometh to put on the tail, Pietro marreth the whole conjuration, saying that he will not have a tail_

    The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio

  • Its tail is short for a felines, taking less than half the length of the body.

    Animal Planet: Recognizing the Boundaries

  • * The next step calls for widening the hide the tail is attached to.

    Cleaning Squirrels

  • The scientist explains how lobsters use their antennae to communicate during mass migrations, how what we call the "tail" is actually the entire torso of the lobster and how claws have different purposes—one is a "pincer," the other a "crusher."

    Reconsidering the Lobster

  • Our bodies twine, and the big black dog pushes his great head between; his tail is a metronome, 3/4 time.

    barbara crooker | in the middle « poetry dispatch & other notes from the underground

  • But the tail is a sort of long extension of the stresses, so that when it goes, the whole thing goes - with a sort of "phack!" sound.

    Archive 2007-08-01

  • Why, I observe that this part which we call the tail of the lobster, is made up of six distinct hard rings and a seventh terminal piece.



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  • “The goal is to convert as much as 2 percent or 3 percent of spending from “tail” to “tooth” — military slang for support services and combat forces.”

    The New York Times, Gates Takes Aim at Pentagon Spending, by Thom Shanker, May 8, 2010

    May 9, 2010

  • In bookbinding, the lower margin of a leaf, cover, or endpaper.

    February 22, 2007