dove·​tail | \ˈdəv-ˌtāl \

Definition of dovetail 

(Entry 1 of 2)

: something resembling a dove's tail especially : a flaring tenon and a mortise into which it fits tightly making an interlocking joint between two pieces (as of wood)



Definition of dovetail (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to join by means of dovetails

b : to cut to a dovetail

2a : to fit skillfully to form a whole

b : to fit together with

intransitive verb

: to fit together into a whole

Illustration of dovetail

Illustration of dovetail


dovetail: 1 mortises, 2 tenons, 3 joint

In the meaning defined above

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Examples of dovetail in a Sentence


the Union and the Confederate accounts of the battle don't dovetail at all

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

This method of collecting dovetails nicely with Rennell’s work, which involves creating and curating clothing and home goods for her online shop, Beklina. Marley Marius, Vogue, "No Corners or Closets: What It’s Like to Live in a California “Spaceship House”," 27 Aug. 2018 The norms promoted at Friday’s meeting dovetail with EU laws and rules used by organizations like the World Bank, which don’t always apply in counties where China has been active. James T. Areddy, WSJ, "European and Asian Nations Join U.S.’s Economic Pushback Against China," 19 Oct. 2018 The ending of your book dovetails with the arrival of social media. Nicole Phelps, Vogue, "Inside Marc Jacobs: Unseen, a Book of Backstage Photography by Robert Fairer, Who Shot the Designer’s Earliest Shows," 12 Sep. 2018 Storr argues that this uncompassionate edge of self-esteemery dovetails with the economic ideas of Ayn Rand and the competitive individualism of her followers in neoliberal politics. Anthony Gottlieb, New York Times, "How We Got to Be So Self-Absorbed: The Long Story," 21 June 2018 Using dovetails and other old-fashioned woodcuts, Sebastian Errazuriz makes furniture that seems fresh, new, and even a bit on this side of living and breathing. John Wenz, Popular Mechanics, "Transforming Cabinets Move in Ways That Boggle the Mind," 22 June 2015 His adventures as an asylum-seeker dovetail with current headlines about U.S. immigration policies and international human rights issues. Christopher Arnott,, "A Mesmerizing 'Merchant Of Venice' As Arts & Ideas Hits Its Stride," 21 June 2018 The cabinets, painted a soft white cream, were built to last, with dovetail joinery and quality hardware. James Alexander,, "Property of the Week: 85 Memorial Drive, West Hartford," 27 July 2017 Fire Resistant The company’s push dovetails nicely with a government plan to reform Portugal’s forests, following last year’s deadly fires., "Portugal Doubles Down on Cork After Demand Revives in Wine Business," 28 Mar. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

In the last movement, Bell and CSO principal cellist John Sharp dovetailed each other’s phrases with comparable fervor. Howard Reich,, "CSO at Ravinia review: Marin Alsop poetically launches Bernstein tribute," 13 July 2018 More in Logistics Hub Group, an Oak Brook, Ill., provider of intermodal truck-rail shipments, said the business dovetails with its services for larger suppliers to retailers. Paul Page, WSJ, "Hub Group to Buy Logistics Service Company CaseStack," 5 Nov. 2018 The engagement dovetails Markle's ongoing support for women and women's issues. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Meghan Markle Will Visit a Charity for Sexual Assault Survivors Next Week," 27 Sep. 2018 The sense of roleplay and character ownership here dovetails superbly with the game’s RPG elements. Charlie Theel, Ars Technica, "Who Goes There?: The Thing returns to the tabletop," 18 Aug. 2018 Renovations at the Shenzhen museum dovetail with the pro-Xi drive. Chun Han Wong, WSJ, "China’s Museums Rewrite History to Boost Xi," 20 Aug. 2018 House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has championed the Republican food-stamp plan, which dovetails with his agenda to reform welfare programs. Caitlin Dewey,, "Republican plan to tighten food stamp work requirements advances despite opposition," 18 Apr. 2018 It is designed to dovetail with state law that bans discrimination in public places on the basis of gender identity or expression and the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, Lawlor said. Pat Eaton-robb,, "Law: Trans Inmates In Connecticut Will Be Housed Appropriately," 26 May 2018 Those remarks, which appear to dovetail with Shah's assessment of blame, were not included in an official White House transcript of Kushner's speech. NBC News, "White House backs Kushner, blames Hamas for Palestinian deaths," 14 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dovetail.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of dovetail


1573, in the meaning defined above


circa 1656, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

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Statistics for dovetail

Last Updated

27 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for dovetail

The first known use of dovetail was in 1573

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More Definitions for dovetail



English Language Learners Definition of dovetail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a type of joint that is used to connect two pieces of wood together



English Language Learners Definition of dovetail (Entry 2 of 2)

: to join (two pieces of wood) with dovetail joints

: to fit together in a pleasing or satisfying way

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More from Merriam-Webster on dovetail

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with dovetail

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for dovetail

Spanish Central: Translation of dovetail

Nglish: Translation of dovetail for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dovetail for Arabic Speakers

Comments on dovetail

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a nest or breeding place

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