swal·​low·​tail ˈswä-lō-ˌtāl How to pronounce swallowtail (audio)
: a deeply forked and tapering tail (as of a swallow)
: any of various usually large brightly marked butterflies (family Papilionidae, especially genus Papilio) with each hind wing typically having an elongated process
swallow-tailed adjective

Illustration of swallowtail

Illustration of swallowtail
  • swallowtail 3

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web The results suggested that the mechanism behind the swallowtail’s mimicry was a supergene, which commanded a whole constellation of individual genes and was therefore capable of major changes that could be easily mistaken for macromutation. Cody Cottier, Discover Magazine, 1 Feb. 2022 As a swallowtail, like a folded note, sways on a long blossom. Rae Armantrout, The New Yorker, 28 Mar. 2022 The caterpillar's other defenses include inflatable red horns that emit a terrible stink, like those of the spicetail swallowtail. Discover Magazine, 29 June 2010 It’s not yet clear if there are enough lime swallowtail here to make a viable population. Bill Kearney, Sun Sentinel, 8 Feb. 2023 Each one resembles a specific poisonous monarch butterfly, which explains the species’ common name, the mocker swallowtail. Cody Cottier, Discover Magazine, 1 Feb. 2022 The spicebush swallowtail is an impressive snake mimic. Discover Magazine, 29 June 2010 Ten millimeters of taper and an easily engaged, sinkable swallowtail help the cause. Drew Zieff, Outside Online, 18 Oct. 2022 Coming in 2019/20: a swallowtail split with weighted tails for user-friendly kick turns. Olivia Dwyer, Outside Online, 6 Feb. 2018 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

1703, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of swallowtail was in 1703

Dictionary Entries Near swallowtail

Cite this Entry

“Swallowtail.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/swallowtail. Accessed 22 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


swal·​low·​tail ˈswäl-ō-ˌtāl How to pronounce swallowtail (audio)
: a deeply forked and tapering tail (as of a swallow)
: any of various usually large butterflies in which the hind wing is elongated into a process that resembles a tail
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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