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[fish-teyl] /ˈfɪʃˌteɪl/
verb (used without object)
to swerve or skid from side to side, as the rear end of a car.
to slow an airplane by causing its tail to move rapidly from side to side.
such a maneuver.
a gas burner having two jets crossing each other so as to produce a flame resembling a fish's tail.
a device having a long, narrow slot at the top, placed over a gas jet, as of a Bunsen burner, to give a thin, fanlike flame.
Jewelry. a setting consisting of four prominent triangular corner prongs to hold the stone.
Origin of fishtail
1400-50; late Middle English. See fish, tail1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for fishtail
  • The abrupt maneuver causes the back end of your car to fishtail, and you lose control.
  • He was using an air ratchet to tighten the fourth fishtail when the stud holding the first fishtail broke free.
  • Too little tongue weight will cause the trailer to fishtail.
  • Others fishtail off the highway or into another car.
  • Spike his tires, and he might fishtail into a van-if the spikes stop him at all.
British Dictionary definitions for fishtail


an aeroplane manoeuvre in which the tail is moved from side to side to reduce speed
a nozzle having a long narrow slot at the top, placed over a Bunsen burner to produce a thin fanlike flame
verb (intransitive)
to slow an aeroplane by moving the tail from side to side
to drive with the rear of the vehicle moving from side to side in an uncontrolled fashion
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for fishtail

1840, from fish (n.) + tail (n.). As a verb, 1927, originally of aircraft, later automobiles. Related: Fishtailed; fishtailing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for fishtail


  1. A women's dress or skirt style featuring a flare at the bottom (1950s+)
  2. Flaring rear fenders on a car (1950s+ Hot rodders)

To swing a car, motorcycle, etc, from side to side at the rear: causing his rear wheels to spin or the rear end to fishtail, that is swing back and forth (1927+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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