adjective, adverb
(of a coin) with the reverse facing up: On the next toss, the coin came up tails. Compare heads.
tail ( def 6 ).

1675–85; tail1 + -s1

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World English Dictionary
tails (teɪlz)
pl n
1.  an informal name for tail coat
interj, —adv
2.  Compare heads with the reverse side of a coin uppermost: used as a call before tossing a coin

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

"hindmost part of an animal," O.E. tægl, tægel, from P.Gmc. *tagla- (cf. O.H.G. zagal, Ger. Zagel "tail," dialectal Ger. Zagel "penis," O.N. tagl "horse's tail"), from PIE *doklos, from base *dek- "something long and thin" (referring to such things as fringe, lock of hair, horsetail; cf.
O.Ir. dual "lock of hair," Skt. dasah "fringe, wick"). The primary sense, at least in Gmc., seems to have been "hairy tail," or just "tuft of hair," but already in O.E. the word was applied to the hairless "tails" of worms, bees, etc. Another O.E. word for "tail" was steort (see stark). Meaning "reverse side of a coin" is from 1680s; that of "backside of a person, buttocks" is recorded from c.1300; slang sense of "pudenda" is from mid-14c.; that of "woman as sex object" is from 1933, earlier "prostitute" (1846). The tail-race (1776) is the part of a mill race below the wheel. To turn tail "take flight" (1580s) originally was a term in falconry. The image of the tail wagging the dog is attested from 1907.

"limitation of ownership," a legal term, 1321 in Anglo-Fr.; 1284 in Anglo-L., in most cases an aphetic form of entail.

"follow secretly," U.S. colloquial, 1907, is from earlier sense of "follow or drive cattle," from tail (n.1). Tail off "diminish" is attested from 1854.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

tail (tāl)
The posterior part of an animal, especially when elongated and extending beyond the trunk or main part of the body.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
tail   (tāl)  Pronunciation Key 
  1. The rear, elongated part of many animals, extending beyond the trunk or main part of the body. Tails are used variously for balance, combat, communication, mating displays, fat storage, propulsion and course correction in water, and course correction in air.

  2. A long, stream of gas or dust forced from the head of a comet when it is close to the Sun. Tails can be up to 150 million km (93 million miles) long, and they always point away from the Sun because of the force of the solar wind. ◇ Plasma tails, or ion tails, appear bluish and straight and narrow, and are formed when solar wind forces ionized gas to stream off the coma. Dust tails are wide and curved, and are formed when solar heat forces trails of dust off the coma; solid particles reflecting the Sun's light create their bright yellow color.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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