noun (1), often attributive
\ ˈtāl \

Definition of tail

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1 : the rear end or a process or prolongation of the rear end of the body of an animal
2 : something resembling an animal's tail in shape or position: such as
a : a luminous stream of particles, gases, or ions extending from a comet especially in the antisolar direction
b : the rear part of an airplane consisting usually of horizontal and vertical stabilizing surfaces with attached control surfaces
3 : the reverse of a coin usually used in plural tails, I win

4 tails plural

a : tailcoat
b : full evening dress for men
5 : a location immediately or not far behind had a posse on his tail
6 : one (such as a detective) who follows or keeps watch on someone
7a : buttocks, butt
b slang, vulgar : sexual intercourse
8 : retinue
9 : the back, last, lower, or inferior part of something
10 : tailing sense 1 usually used in plural
11 : the blank space at the bottom of a page


tailed; tailing; tails

Definition of tail (Entry 2 of 4)

transitive verb

1 : to follow for purposes of surveillance
2 : to connect end to end
3a : to remove the tail of (an animal) : dock
b : to remove the stem or bottom part of topping and tailing gooseberries
4a : to make or furnish with a tail
b : to follow or be drawn behind like a tail

intransitive verb

1 : to form or move in a straggling line
2 : to grow progressively smaller, fainter, or more scattered : abate usually used with off productivity is tailing off— Tom Nicholson
3 : to swing or lie with the stern in a named direction used of a ship at anchor


noun (2)

Definition of tail (Entry 3 of 4)



Definition of tail (Entry 4 of 4)

: limited as to tenure : entailed

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Other Words from tail

Noun (1)

tailed \ ˈtāld \ adjective
tailless \ ˈtāl-​ləs \ adjective
taillike \ ˈtāl-​ˌlīk \ adjective


tailer noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for tail

Synonyms: Verb

bird-dog, chase, course, dog, follow, hound, pursue, run, shadow, tag, trace, track, trail

Antonyms: Verb

guide, lead, pilot

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Examples of tail in a Sentence


The police had been tailing the suspect for several miles. She is constantly tailed by the press. The pitch tailed away from the batter.
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First Known Use of tail

Noun (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1523, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2

Noun (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined above


15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tail

Noun (1)

Middle English, from Old English tægel; akin to Old High German zagal tail, Middle Irish dúal lock of hair

Noun (2)

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from tailler


Middle English taille, from Anglo-French taylé, past participle of tailler to cut, limit — more at tailor

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Dictionary Entries near tail



Tai Hu




tail barley

Statistics for tail

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Time Traveler for tail

The first known use of tail was before the 12th century

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English Language Learners Definition of tail

informal : to follow (someone) closely
: to move in a line that is not straight


\ ˈtāl \

Kids Definition of tail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the rear part of an animal or a usually slender flexible growth that extends from this part
2 : something that in shape, appearance, or position is like an animal's tail the tail of a coat
3 : the back, last, or lower part of something the tail of an airplane
4 : the side or end opposite the head

Other Words from tail

tailed \ ˈtāld \ adjective
tailless \ ˈtāl-​ləs \ adjective


tailed; tailing

Kids Definition of tail (Entry 2 of 2)

: to follow closely to keep watch on Police tailed the suspect.


noun, often attributive
\ ˈtā(ə)l \

Medical Definition of tail

1 : the rear end or a process or prolongation of the rear end of the body of an animal
2 : one end of a molecule regarded as opposite to the head especially : the end of a lipid molecule that consists of a nonpolar hydrocarbon chain and is opposite to the polar group most surface-active agents have a long hydrophobic tail attached to a polar head — R. E. Kirk & D. F. Othmer
3 : any of various parts of bodily structures that are terminal: as
a : the distal tendon of a muscle
b : the slender left end of the human pancreas
c : the common convoluted tube that forms the lower part of the epididymis
4 : the motile part of a sperm that extends from the middle piece to the end and comprises the flagellum
5 : a thin protein tube which forms part of the coat of some bacteriophages and through which DNA is injected into a cell

Other Words from tail

tailed \ ˈtā(ə)ld \ adjective
tailless \ ˈtā(ə)l-​les \ adjective

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Legal Definition of tail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the condition of being limited or restricted by entailing a tenant in tail



Legal Definition of tail (Entry 2 of 2)

: limited as to tenure — see also fee tail at fee sense 1

History and Etymology for tail


Anglo-French, literally, cutting, from Old French, from taillier to cut, prune

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More from Merriam-Webster on tail

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tail

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tail

Spanish Central: Translation of tail

Nglish: Translation of tail for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tail for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about tail

Comments on tail

What made you want to look up tail? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


excited commotion or publicity

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