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shirt +‎ tail


shirttail (plural shirttails)

  1. The single or split (then rather plural) bottom part of a shirt, below the waist, especially in the back, which, when not tucked into trousers or other vestment, hangs over the wearer's tail-end, like a tail.
    • 1996, Christopher A. LaLonde, William Faulkner and the Rites of Passage, page 10:
      According to Linder, one of the rituals of the hunt entailed cutting off the shirttail of a hunter who shot at and missed a deer.
    • 2010, Larry McMurtry, Leaving Cheyenne: A Novel, →ISBN, page 131:
      She looked like the same old Molly, only more so, wearing Levis and an old cotton shirt with the shirttail out; she had a clothespin in her mouth and three or four more in the shirt pocket.
  2. (by extension) The tail-end or periphery of something.
    • 1977, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction - Volume 53, page 60:
      There was something — did you ever catch hold of the shirttail of a dream and try to pull it back into your consciousness?
    • 1998, Ann Tatlock, A Room of My Own, →ISBN, page 195:
      Well, here we are, living in a city right on the shirttail of the city, and you're still not satisfied.
    • 2005, Donald Harman Akenson, An Irish history of civilization, →ISBN, page 397:
      James Orr joined Henry Joy McCracken and the shirttail of his force in the Slemish Mountains.
    • 2013, Holley Rubinsky, South of Elfrida, →ISBN:
      When she pulled herself out of it, she was no longer homely Doreen, acne pits ruining her face, but she was, as she jokes, hanging on to the shirttail of youth.
  3. A tenuous connection.
    • 1939, Ohio State University. College of Commerce and Administration, College of Commerce conference series, page 68:
      Although consumers' cooperatives have not yet been benefitted, the more they become tied on to the shirttail of the agricultural bloc, the more political power they are going to have.
    • 1984, Arizona Highways - Volume 60:
      And with the Papago Freeway tacked to the shirttail of a routine bond election, one of the great exercises of opinion-bending by an American newspaper went the full, furious distance. Nineteen seventy-three.
    • 2004, Mason C. Hoadley, The role of law in contemporary Indonesia, →ISBN:
      What has been changing is that introduction of Islamic forms of law have become less dependent upon riding the shirttail of local custom, which have been at least formally protected under Indonesia law.
  4. A distant kinship.
    • 1977, William Ratigan, Great Lakes Shipwrecks & Survivals, →ISBN, page 283:
      She belongs to the true sisterhood of the majestic five daughters born to America's inland Neptune, but she always has been regarded as a poor relation, a sort of shirttail cousin, by her big sisters.
    • 1993, Dana Stabenow, A Fatal Thaw, →ISBN, page 141:
      I think we were related in a shirttail sort of way throuogh my father's family in Cordova.
    • 2007, Jeffrey Smith, Mischief Makers, →ISBN, page 16:
      As I mentioned earlier, my shirttail cousin Rod was a big part of my growing up years.
  5. A small portion
    • 1960, Guy Owen, Season of Fear, page 24:
      “What good's a one-horse farm, I ask you, a few acres of tobacco and a shirttail of corn and cotton—just enough to see a man through the winter and maybe buy seed to plant and get another run till the crops are in?
    • 1974, Richard H. Cox &‎Truman G. Esau, Regressive therapy:
      Other times I felt that there was enough of the real P. with me that we were both hanging on to the shirttail of the real her to keep her from destroying herself and escaping and there was a well little girl there that was strong enough that at times she wanted as much as I wanted for that little girl to dominate and crush out the sick one.
    • 1980, Torney Otto Nall, Builder of Bridges: A Biography of Roy Hunter Short, page 56:
      I may get a small shirttail of votes, but I don't expect to be elected.
  6. Something small and unimportant.
    • 1951, William Faulkner, “Two Soldiers”, in Collected Stories, page 84:
      He can't get no further behind. He can sholy take care of this little shirttail of a farm while me and you are whupping them Japanese.
    • 1968, William Hewlette Walton & ‎James Quillian Maxwell, The Life Story of Cousin Tubby Walton, page 2:
      Granddaddy Bill Hogan signed up with the Glorious Cause when he won't but a shirttail of a boy, just 16 years old, and he come within a tomcat's whisker of not coming out alive.
    • 2014, John Yount, Hardcastle, →ISBN:
      Why don't you just go ahead and lay out fer me what the hell I've got to do on a little shirttail piece of land like this?



See also[edit]


  • Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, Springfield, Massachusetts, G.&C. Merriam Co., 1967