with your tail between legs


1 [teyl]
the hindmost part of an animal, especially that forming a distinct, flexible appendage to the trunk.
something resembling or suggesting this in shape or position: the tail of a kite.
Astronomy. the luminous stream extending from the head of a comet.
the reverse of a coin (opposed to head ).
Aeronautics. the after portion of an airplane or the like.
the tapering skirts or ends at the back of a coat, especially a tail coat.
men's full-dress attire.
Distilling. alcohol obtained in the final distillation. Compare head ( def 22 ).
Slang. the buttocks or rump.
Informal. a person who trails or keeps a close surveillance of another, as a detective or spy: The police decided to put a tail on the suspect.
Informal. the trail of a fleeing person or animal: They put a detective on his tail.
Slang: Vulgar.
sexual intercourse.
Usually Disparaging and Offensive. a woman considered as a sex object.
the hinder, bottom, or end part of anything; the rear.
a final or concluding part of a sentence, conversation, social gathering, etc.; conclusion; end: The tail of the speech was boring. Toward the tail of the concert I'd begun to get tired.
the inferior or unwanted part of anything.
a long braid or tress of hair.
an arrangement of objects or persons extending as or as if a tail.
a line of persons awaiting their turns at something; queue.
a retinue; train.
the lower part of a pool or stream.
the exposed portion of a piece of roofing, as a slate.
Printing, Bookbinding. the bottom of a page or book.
Printing. the lower portion of a type, as of g, y, or Q.
coming from behind: a tail breeze.
being in the back or rear: the tail section of a plane.
verb (used with object)
Informal. to follow in order to hinder escape of or to observe: to tail a suspect.
to form or furnish with a tail.
to form or constitute the tail or end of (a procession, retinue, etc.).
to terminate; come after or behind; follow like a tail.
to join or attach (one thing) at the tail or end of another.
Building Trades. to fasten (a beam, stone, etc.) by one end (usually followed by in or into ).
to dock the tail of (a horse, dog, etc.).
verb (used without object)
to follow close behind: She always tails after her sister.
to disappear gradually or merge into: The path tails off into the woods.
to form, or move or pass in, a line or column suggestive of a tail: The hikers tailed up the narrow path.
(of a boat) to have or take a position with the stern in a particular direction.
Building Trades. (of a beam, stone, etc.) to be fastened by one end (usually followed by in or into ).
turn tail,
to turn one's back on, as in aversion or fright.
to run away from difficulty, opposition, etc.; flee: The sight of superior forces made the attackers turn tail.
with one's tail between one's legs, utterly humiliated; defeated; cowed: They were forced to retreat with their tails between their legs.

before 900; Middle English; Old English tægl; cognate with Old Norse tagl horse's tail, Gothic tagl hair, Middle High German zagel tail, Middle Low German tagel rope-end

tailer, noun
tailless, adjective
taillessly, adverb
taillessness, noun
taillike, adjective

The meanings “sexual intercourse” and “female sexual partner” are both vulgar slang. When referring to a person, the term tail is usually used with disparaging intent and perceived as insulting.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
tail1 (teɪl)
1.  the region of the vertebrate body that is posterior to or above the anus and contains an elongation of the vertebral column, esp forming a flexible movable appendageRelated: caudal
2.  anything resembling such an appendage in form or position; the bottom, lowest, or rear part: the tail of a shirt
3.  the last part or parts: the tail of the storm
4.  the rear part of an aircraft including the fin, tailplane, and control surfaces; empennage
5.  astronomy the luminous stream of gas and dust particles, up to 200 million kilometres long, driven from the head of a comet, when close to the sun, under the effect of the solar wind and light pressure
6.  the rear portion of a bomb, rocket, missile, etc, usually fitted with guiding or stabilizing vanes
7.  a line of people or things
8.  a long braid or tress of hair: a ponytail; a pigtail
9.  angling Also called: tailfly the lowest fly on a wet-fly cast
10.  a final short line in a stanza
11.  informal a person employed to follow and spy upon another or others
12.  See buttock an informal word for buttocks
13.  taboo, slang
 a.  the female genitals
 b.  a woman considered sexually (esp in the phrases piece of tail, bit of tail)
14.  printing
 a.  the margin at the foot of a page
 b.  the bottom edge of a book
15.  the lower end of a pool or part of a stream
16.  informal the course or track of a fleeing person or animal: the police are on my tail
17.  (modifier) coming from or situated in the rear: a tail wind
18.  turn tail to run away; escape
19.  with one's tail between one's legs in a state of utter defeat or confusion
20.  to form or cause to form the tail
21.  to remove the tail of (an animal); dock
22.  (tr) to remove the stalk of: to top and tail the gooseberries
23.  (tr) to connect (objects, ideas, etc) together by or as if by the tail
24.  informal (tr) to follow stealthily
25.  (Austral) (tr) to tend (cattle) on foot
26.  (intr) (of a vessel) to assume a specified position, as when at a mooring
27.  to build the end of (a brick, joist, etc) into a wall or (of a brick, etc) to have one end built into a wall
Related: caudal
[Old English tægel; related to Old Norse tagl horse's tail, Gothic tagl hair, Old High German zagal tail]

tail2 (teɪl)
1.  See also entail the limitation of an estate or interest to a person and the heirs of his body
2.  (immediately postpositive) (of an estate or interest) limited in this way
[C15: from Old French taille a division; see tailor, tally]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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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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