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To run away or flee, usually in fear. The burglars turned tail at the sound of our security alarm.
turn tail (and run)
Fig. to flee; to run away in fright. I couldn't just turn tail and run, but I wasn't going to fight that monster, either. Sometimes turning tail is the only sensible thing to do.
Run away, as in When they heard the sirens, the boys turned tail. This term alludes to an animal's turning its back in flight. [Mid-1500s]
If you turn tail, you turn and run away from someone or something because you are frightened of them. The rebels were forced back until they turned tail and fled. I go weak all over when I see her. Stumbling, I almost turn tail.