The tail of mammals and reptiles contains a series of movable vertebrae, and is covered with flesh and hairs or scales like those of other parts of the body. The tail of existing birds consists of several more or less consolidated vertebrae which supports a fanlike group of quills to which the term tail is more particularly applied. The tail of fishes consists of the tapering hind portion of the body ending in a caudal fin. The term tail is sometimes applied to the entire abdomen of a crustacean or insect, and sometimes to the terminal piece or pygidium alone.
2. Any long, flexible terminal appendage; whatever resembles, in shape or position, the tail of an animal, as a catkin. "Doretus writes a great praise of the distilled waters of those tails that hang on willow trees." (Harvey)
5. The side of a coin opposite to that which bears the head, effigy, or date; the reverse; rarely used except in the expression "heads or tails," employed when a coin is thrown up for the purpose of deciding some point by its fall.
8. <surgery> A portion of an incision, at its beginning or end, which does not go through the whole thickness of the skin, and is more painful than a complete incision; called also tailing. One of the strips at the end of a bandage formed by splitting the bandage one or more times.
Same as Tailpiece.
<astronomy> Tail of a comet, the post where the besiegers begin to break ground, and cover themselves from the fire of the place, in advancing the lines of approach. Tail spindle, the spindle of the tailstock of a turning lathe; called also dead spindle. To turn tail, to run away; to flee. "Would she turn tail to the heron, and fly quite out another way; but all was to return in a higher pitch." (Sir P. Sidney)
Origin: AS. Taegel, taegl; akin to G. Zagel, Icel. Tagl, Sw. Tagel, Goth. Tagl hair. 59.
(01 Mar 1998)
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