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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.
turn tailturn round and run away. informal
turn ˈtail (and run, flee, etc.)run away from a fight or a dangerous situation: As soon as he saw the police he turned tail and fled.
turn tail, to
To turn one’s back on; to run away. This term, with its image of turning one’s rear in flight, has been used since the sixteenth century. “Such a haggarde as would turne taile to a full fist,” wrote Robert Greene (Euphues His Censure, 1587).
See also: turn