tail between one's legs
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See also: tail-between-one's-legs
From the body posture of a dog that is worried or frightened.
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- Defeated; in a cowardly or miserable manner.
- He came back home, tail between his legs.
- 1919, W[illiam] Somerset Maugham, chapter XV, in The Moon and Sixpence, [New York, N.Y.]: Grosset & Dunlap Publishers by arrangement with George H. Doran Company, OCLC 365836:
- "I wouldn't do that," said Mrs. MacAndrew. "I'd give him all the rope he wants. He'll come back with his tail between his legs and settle down again quite comfortably."
- Used other than figuratively or idiomatically.
- 1591, William Shakespeare, “The Second Part of Henry the Sixt, […]”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act V, scene i], page 144:
- Oft haue I ſeene a hot ore-weening Curre / Run backe and bite, becauſe he was with-held, / Who being ſuffer'd with the Beares fell paw, / Hath clapt his taile, between his legges and cride,
defeated; in a cowardly or miserable manner
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- 2013, Alistair Moffat, Susan Mansfield, Alexander Smith, The Great Tapestry of Scotland: The Making of a Masterpiece:
- That whole campaign was a damp squib, they cranked it up as a real possibility that Scotland might win, and when we actually got there it didn't happen like that, and everybody came home quite early with their tails between their legs.
- He retreated from the fight with his tail between his legs.