tail between one's legs
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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 […], →OCLC:
- "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."
- 2023 February 27, Elle Hunt, quoting Kelsey Grammer, “‘Don’t make Frasier best friends with Elon Musk!’ Writers and comics offer their reboot tips”, in The Guardian, →ISSN:
- After 11 seasons set in Seattle […] Frasier is returning to Boston, to reconquer his old Cheers-era stomping ground. “He left with his tail between his legs a little bit,” Grammer said in a recent interview.
- Used other than figuratively or idiomatically: see tail, between, one's, legs.
- 1591 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Second Part of Henry the Sixt, […]”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [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
- “with your tail between your legs” (US) / “with your tail between your legs” (UK) in Macmillan English Dictionary.
- “tail between one's legs”, in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 1996–present.
- “with one's tail between one's legs”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.