Entries linking to high-tail
Old English heh (Anglian), heah (West Saxon) "of great height, tall, conspicuously elevated; lofty, exalted, high-class," from Proto-Germanic *hauha- (source also of Old Saxon hoh, Old Norse har, Danish høi, Swedish hög, Old Frisian hach, Dutch hoog, Old High German hoh, German hoch, Gothic hauhs "high;" also German Hügel "hill," Old Norse haugr "mound"). The group is of uncertain origin; perhaps related to Lithuanian kaukara "hill," from PIE *kouko-. Spelling with -gh represents a final guttural sound in the original word, lost since 14c.
Of sound pitch, late 14c. Of roads, "most frequented or important," c. 1200 (high road in the figurative sense is from 1793). Meaning "euphoric or exhilarated from alcohol" is first attested 1620s, of drugs, 1932. Sense of "proud, haughty, arrogant, supercilious" (c. 1200) is reflected in high-handed and high horse. Of an evil or a punishment, "grave, serious, severe" (as in high treason), c. 1200 (Old English had heahsynn "deadly sin, crime").
High school "school for advanced studies" attested from late 15c. in Scotland; by 1824 in U.S. High time "fully time, the fullness of time," is from late 14c. High noon (when the sun is at the meridian) is from early 14c.; the sense is "full, total, complete." High finance (1884) is that concerned with large sums. High tea (1831) is one at which hot meats are served. High-water mark is what is left by a flood or highest tide (1550s); figurative use by 1814.
High and mighty is c. 1200 (heh i mahhte) "exalted and powerful," formerly a compliment to princes, etc. High and dry of beached things (especially ships) is from 1783.
"hindmost part of an animal," Old English tægl, tægel "a tail," from Proto-Germanic *tagla- (source also of Old High German zagal, German Zagel "tail," dialectal German Zagel "penis," Old Norse tagl "horse's tail," Gothic tagl "hair"), from PIE *doklos, from suffixed form of root *dek- (2) "something long and thin" (referring to such things as fringe, lock of hair, horsetail; source also of Old Irish dual "lock of hair," Sanskrit dasah "fringe, wick").
According to OED, the primary sense, at least in Germanic, seems to have been "hairy tail," or just "tuft of hair," but already in Old English the word was applied to the hairless "tails" of worms, bees, etc. But Buck writes that the common notion is of "long, slender shape." As an adjective from 1670s.
Meaning "reverse side of a coin" (opposite the side with the head) 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 "act of copulation" with a prostitute (1846). Of descending strokes of letters, from 1590s.
Tails "coat with tails" is from 1857. 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. Another Old English word for "tail" was steort (see stark).
updated on October 10, 2017