Meaning of TAIL in English


I. tail 1 S2 W3 /teɪl/ BrE AmE noun [countable]

[ Language: Old English ; Origin: tægel ]

1 . ANIMAL the part that sticks out at the back of an animal’s body, and that it can move:

The dog wagged its tail.

white-tailed/long-tailed etc

a white-tailed eagle

2 .

AIRCRAFT the back part of an aircraft

3 . SHIRT the bottom part of your shirt at the back, that you put inside your trousers

4 . BACK PART [usually singular] the back or last part of something, especially something that is moving away from you:

We saw the tail of the procession disappearing round the corner.

5 . tails

a) [plural] a man’s jacket which is short at the front and divides into two long pieces at the back, worn to very formal events SYN tailcoat

b) [uncountable] spoken said when you are ↑ toss ing a coin (=throwing it up in the air to decide which of two things you will do or choose) OPP heads

6 . the tail end of something the last part of an event, situation, or period of time

7 . be on sb’s tail informal to be following someone closely

8 . FOLLOW informal someone who is employed to watch and follow someone, especially a criminal

put a tail on somebody (=order someone to follow another person)

9 . turn tail informal to run away because you are too frightened to fight or attack

10 . with your tail between your legs embarrassed or unhappy because you have failed or been defeated

11 . it’s (a case of) the tail wagging the dog informal used to say that an unimportant thing is wrongly controlling a situation

12 . chase tail American English informal to try to get a woman to have sex with you

• • •


■ adjectives

▪ long

Some dinosaurs had long necks and equally long tails.

▪ short

Its tail is short and pointed.

▪ bushy (=with long thick fur)

My cat has a soft bushy tail.

▪ a prehensile tail technical (=able to hold things)

Many monkeys have prehensile tails.

■ verbs

▪ a dog wags its tail/its tail wags

Domino rushed to meet her, tail wagging with excitement.

▪ a cow/cat etc swishes its tail (=quickly moves it from side to side)

The cow wandered off, swishing her tail.

■ tail + NOUN

▪ tail feathers

The bird’s wings and tail feathers were a beautiful purple color.


► Do not say ' wave its tail ' or ' shake its tail '. Say wag its tail .

II. tail 2 BrE AmE verb [transitive]

informal to follow someone and watch what they do, where they go etc:

The police have been tailing him for several months.

tail away phrasal verb British English

to ↑ tail off

tail back phrasal verb

British English if traffic tails back, a long line of cars forms, for example because the road is blocked

tail off ( also tail away British English ) phrasal verb

1 . to become gradually less, smaller etc, and often stop or disappear completely:

Profits tailed off towards the end of the year.

2 . written if someone’s voice tails off, it becomes quieter and then stops:

‘I didn’t mean ...’ Her voice tailed off in embarrassment.

• • •


▪ follow to walk, drive etc behind or after someone, for example in order to see where they are going:

The man had followed her home to find out where she lived.


Follow that car!


He hired a detective to follow her.

▪ chase to quickly run or drive after someone or something in order to catch them when they are trying to escape:

Police chased the car along the motorway at speeds of up to 90 mph.

▪ run after somebody/go after somebody to quickly follow someone or something in order to stop them or talk to them:

I ran after him to say sorry, but he’d already got on the bus.

▪ stalk /stɔːk $ stɒːk/ to secretly follow an animal in order to kill it, or to secretly follow a person in order to attack them:

a tiger stalking its prey


He had a long history of stalking women in his neighbourhood.

▪ pursue /pəˈsjuː $ pərˈsuː/ written to chase someone in a very determined way:

The ship was being pursued by enemy submarines.

▪ give chase written to chase someone or something who is trying to escape from you:

One of the officers gave chase and arrested the man.


The calf ran away and the lion gave chase.

▪ tail to secretly follow someone in order to watch what they do and where they go:

Apparently, the police had been tailing the terrorists for months.

▪ track to follow and find a person or animal by looking at the marks they leave on the ground:

The bushmen were tracking antelope in the Kalahari desert.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.