tail

1 of 4

noun (1)

often attributive
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
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
7
a
b
slang, vulgar : sexual intercourse
8
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 adjective
tailless adjective
taillike adjective

tail

2 of 4

verb

tailed; tailing; tails

transitive verb

1
: to follow for purposes of surveillance
2
: to connect end to end
3
a
: to remove the tail of (an animal) : dock entry 3
b
: to remove the stem or bottom part of
topping and tailing gooseberries
4
a
: 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 offTom Nicholson
3
: to swing or lie with the stern in a named direction
used of a ship at anchor
4
tailer noun

tail

3 of 4

noun (2)

tail

4 of 4

adjective

: limited as to tenure : entailed

Example Sentences

Verb The police had been tailing the suspect for several miles. She is constantly tailed by the press. The pitch tailed away from the batter.

Word History

Etymology

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

Adjective

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

First Known Use

Noun (1)

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

Verb

1523, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2

Noun (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Adjective

15th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near tail

Cite this Entry

“Tail.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tail. Accessed 8 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

tail

1 of 3 noun
1
: the rear end or a lengthened growth from the rear end of the body of an animal
2
: something resembling an animal's tail
the tail of a kite
the tail of a comet
3
plural : full evening dress for men
4
: the back, last, lower, or rear part of something
the tail of an airplane
5
: the reverse of a coin
6
: one (as a detective) who follows or keeps watch on someone
7
: a location not far behind
a posse on the outlaw's tail
tailed adjective
tailless adjective
taillike adjective

tail

2 of 3 adjective
: being at or coming from the rear

tail

3 of 3 verb
1
: to make or furnish with a tail
2
a
: to follow or be drawn behind like a tail
b
: to follow closely to observe : shadow
tailer noun

Medical Definition

tail

noun
often attributive
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
tailed adjective
tailless adjective

Legal Definition

tail

1 of 2 noun
1
: the condition of being limited or restricted by entailing
a tenant in tail
2

tail

2 of 2 adjective
: limited as to tenure see also fee tail at fee sense 1

History and Etymology for tail

Noun

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

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