use-icon

HOW TO USE THE DICTIONARY

Learn what the dictionary tells you about words.

Get Started Now!

Some compound words (like bus rapid transit, dog whistle, or identity theft) don’t appear on the drop-down list when you enter them into the search window. If a compound term doesn’t appear in the drop-down list, try entering the term into the search window and then hit the search button (instead of the “enter” key). Alternatively, begin searches for compound terms with a quotation mark.

use-icon

THE USAGE PANEL

The Usage Panel is a group of nearly 200 prominent scholars, creative writers, journalists, diplomats, and others in occupations requiring mastery of language. The Panelists are surveyed annually to gauge the acceptability of particular usages and grammatical constructions.

The Panelists

puzzle-icon

NEED HELP SOLVING A CROSSWORD PUZZLE?

Go to our Crossword Puzzle Solver and type in the letters that you know, and the Solver will produce a list of possible solutions.

open-icon

INTERESTED IN DICTIONARIES?

Check out the Dictionary Society of North America at http://www.dictionarysociety.com

open-icon

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY APP

The new American Heritage Dictionary app is now available for iOS and Android.

scroll-icon

INDO-EUROPEAN & SEMITIC ROOTS APPENDICES

Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

Indo-European Roots

Semitic Roots

The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.

open-icon

OPEN DICTIONARY PROJECT

Share your ideas for new words and new meanings of old words!

Start Sharing Now!

100-words-icon

See word lists from the best-selling 100 Words Series!

Find out more!

tail 1 (tāl)
Share:
n.
1. The posterior part of an animal, especially when elongated and extending beyond the trunk or main part of the body.
2. The bottom, rear, or hindmost part, especially:
a. The lowest part of a garment such as a shirt or coat.
b. The rear end of an automobile or other vehicle.
c. The rear portion of the fuselage of an aircraft or the assembly of stabilizing planes and control surfaces in this portion.
d. The vaned rear portion of a bomb or missile.
3. A long thin arrangement, part, or structure, often extending from a main structure:
a. A long thin part on some kites that hangs down below the part that catches the wind to provide stability.
b. The long stream of gas and dust that is illuminated and directed away from the head of a comet when it is close to the sun.
c. A braid of hair; a pigtail.
d. A train of followers; a retinue.
4. Something that follows something else or takes the last place:
a. The end of a line of persons or things.
b. The short closing line of certain stanzas of verse.
c. The refuse or dross remaining from processes such as distilling or milling.
5. tails
a. A formal evening costume typically worn by men.
b. A tailcoat.
6. often tails (used with a sing. verb) The side of a coin not having the principal design.
7. The trail of a person or animal in flight: The police were on the bank robber's tail.
8. A person assigned or employed to follow and report on someone else's movements and actions: The police put a tail on the suspected drug dealer.
9.
a. Slang The buttocks.
b. Vulgar Slang Sexual intercourse.
c. Offensive Slang Women considered as sexual partners.
adj.
1. Of or relating to a tail or tails: tail feathers.
2. Situated in the tail, as of an airplane: a tail gunner.
v. tailed, tail·ing, tails
v.tr.
1. To provide with a tail: tail a kite.
2. To deprive of a tail; dock.
3. To serve as the tail or last part of: The Santa Claus float tailed the parade.
4. To connect (often dissimilar or incongruous objects) by the tail or end: tail two ideas together.
5. To set one end of (a beam, board, or brick) into a wall.
6. Informal To follow and keep (a person) under surveillance.
v.intr.
1. To become lengthened or spaced when moving in a line: The patrol tailed out in pairs.
2. To be inserted at one end into a wall, as a floor timber or beam.
3. Informal To follow: tailed after the leader.
4. Nautical
a. To go aground with the stern foremost.
b. To lie or swing with the stern in a named direction, as when riding at anchor or on a mooring.
5. Sports To veer from a straight course in the direction of the dominant hand of the player propelling the ball: a pitch that tails away from the batter.
Phrasal Verbs:
tail down
To ease a heavy load down a steep slope.
tail off (or away)
To diminish gradually; dwindle or subside: The fireworks tailed off into darkness.
Idiom:
with (one's) tail between (one's) legs
In a state of humiliation or dejection.

[Middle English, from Old English tægel.]

tailless adj.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
tail 2 (tāl) Law
Share:
n.
Limitation of the inheritance of an estate to a particular person and that person's heirs.
adj.
Being in tail: a tail estate.

[Middle English taille, from Old French, division, from taillier, to cut; see TAILOR.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

This website is best viewed in Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or Safari. Some characters in pronunciations and etymologies cannot be displayed properly in Internet Explorer.