Printable Version
Pronunciation: hai-tayl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive or transitive with the pronoun it.

Meaning: (US Slang) To rush, run fast, hurry as fast as possible.

Notes: Today's is a word of strictly American origin. I first heard it in B-grade western movies, but today it may be heard wherever slang is spoken. We no longer separate this compound's constituents with a hyphen. It is a lexical orphan.

In Play: Today's Good Word is more often used as a transitive verb with the fixed object it: "When the underage drinking party saw a flashlight coming, they hightailed it out of the cornfield." It usually implies fleeing from something, even when used intransitively: "When the dancing started, Montgomery hightailed out of there and went back home."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a compound, made up of high + tail and refers to those animals which, when fleeing, raise their tails. High has many cousins among the Germanic languages, like German hoch (and Hügel "hill"), Dutch hoog, Danish høj, Swedish hög, and Norwegian høy. All these come from PIE keuk-/kouk- "high, tall", source also of Russian kucha "pile, haystack" and Lithuanian kaukaras "knoll, hillock".

Tail is a reduction of Old English tægl, cousin to regional German Zagel "tail". It is hard to trace outside Germanic languages. It seems to come from PIE doklos-/deklos- "long and thin; a strip", a suffixed form of dek'/dok' "to tear, rip", evidence of which is found only in ancient languages, like Sanskrit "dasah "wick", Old Irish dual "lock of hair", and Old Norse (Viking) tagl "hair of a horse's tail". (Now an e-bow to Susan Maynard for spotting the interest in today's rather slangy Good Word and sharing it with us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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