Head or tail

Definitions

  • Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • Head or tail this side or that side; this thing or that; -- a phrase used in throwing a coin to decide a choice, question, or stake, head being the side of the coin bearing the effigy or principal figure (or, in case there is no head or face on either side, that side which has the date on it), and tail the other side.
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Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • Head or tail the side of a coin with the sovereign's head, or the reverse: a phrase used in tossing up a coin to decide a point ('to make neither head nor tail of anything'—to be unable to understand it)
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Quotations

  • Spencer Tracy
    Spencer Tracy
    “There were many times my pants were so thin I could sit on a dime and tell if it was heads or tails.”

Etymology

Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
A.S. héafod, Dut. hoofd, Ger. haupt.

Usage

In literature:

I can't make head or tail of it.
"A Royal Prisoner" by Pierre Souvestre
The count couldn't make head or tail of it.
"The Confessions of Arsène Lupin" by Maurice Leblanc
Last night I couldn't make head or tail of the books.
"The Invader" by Margaret L. Woods
Oh, I cannot make head or tail of it!
"Messengers of Evil" by Pierre Souvestre
It is playing heads and tails with a man's life, or worse.
"Daisy's Aunt" by E. F. (Edward Frederic) Benson
This insupportable old woman could not make head or tail of the questions, and answered at random.
"A Nest of Spies" by Pierre Souvestre
Divide two or three soles from the backbone, and take off the head, fins, and tail.
"The Cook and Housekeeper's Complete and Universal Dictionary; Including a System of Modern Cookery, in all Its Various Branches," by Mary Eaton
When he gets angry, and flaps his tail or bumps his head, there is an earthquake.
"Japanese Fairy World" by William Elliot Griffis
I could not make head or tail out of your letter.
"Jolly Sally Pendleton" by Laura Jean Libbey
There's been no head or tail to anything on this division for six months.
"Whispering Smith" by Frank H. Spearman
Not that I've had time to hear everything yet, but I own I can't make head or tail of what I have heard.
"" by E.W. Hornung
I can't make head or tail out of it all.
"A Captain in the Ranks" by George Cary Eggleston
Only I can't say I made head or tail of it at the time.
"When Ghost Meets Ghost" by William Frend De Morgan
Sometimes he merely alters a letter or two; sometimes he twists off the head or the tail of the unfortunate vocable altogether.
"Spenser" by R. W. Church
Sometimes one's nose touched the horse's or ass's neck; sometimes the back of one's head was whisked by the tail.
"Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Vol. 2, No. 8, January, 1851" by Various
Frankly, he couldn't make head or tail of this mess Doris seemed to be in.
"The Girl in the Mirror" by Elizabeth Garver Jordan
Now let's see if we can make head or tail of the map.
"Doubloons--and the Girl" by John Maxwell Forbes
He couldn't begin to make heads or tails out of all the confusion.
"The Scarlet Lake Mystery" by Harold Leland Goodwin
The knob is the head of a turtle or other full-bodied reptile, and the spout takes the place of the creature's tail.
"Ancient Pottery of the Mississippi Valley" by William H. Holmes
It is of little consequence, in the young of the dog, whether the head or tail be first born.
"The Dog" by Dinks, Mayhew, and Hutchinson
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In poetry:

Should painter attach to a fair human head
The thick, turgid neck of a stallion,
Or depict a spruce lass with the tail of a bass,
I am sure you would guy the rapscallion.
"Consistency" by Eugene Field
Or a duck that is chasing a quick thing around,
Or a crow that is taking three hops on the ground,
Or an ass with head down (he is held in a pound);
Or a fox with his tail curled around him?
"The Toy-Maker" by Padraic Colum
Sylvia had wit, had spirits too;
To hear the one, the other view,
Suspended held the scales;
Her wit, her youth too, claim'd its share:
Let none the preference declare,
But turn up - heads or tails.
"Flirt and Phil" by William Shenstone
Here's the Round Robin, round as any ball;
You scarce can see his head or tail at all.
He's not a carrier-pigeon, though he brings
Important messages beneath his wings.
And 'tis this freak of ornithology
They mean who say, "A little bird told me."
"A Phenomenal Fauna" by Carolyn Wells
Among the stock jokes it is oft averred
The Irish Bull is best of all the heard.
He has no points, he has no head or tail,
But many a jovial party he'll regale.
And all his hearers will with laughter choke,
Except his brother John, who sees no joke.
"A Phenomenal Fauna" by Carolyn Wells

In news:

Making Head or Tail of Fish and Mercury.
Heads or Tails , Some CEOs Win the Pay Game.
Trying to make heads or tails of his eligibility situation.
Lamb of God on Randy Blythe's Arrest: "It's Maddening to Try and Make Heads or Tails ".
It's maddening to try and make heads or tails .
A new mathematical analysis now suggests that, in a typical toss, a coin is more likely to land on the same face as it started out on (see Toss Out the Toss-Up: Bias in heads-or-tails ).
Toss out the toss-up: Bias in heads-or-tails .
Lamb of God on Randy Blythe's Arrest: "It's Maddening to Try and Make Heads or Tails".
Lamb of God on Randy Blythe's Arrest: "It's Maddening to Try and Make Heads or Tails".
They do not have the green heads male mallards carry or the trademark curly tail.
1 3-pound trout or two 1 1/2 pound trout, gutted and cleaned but with heads and tails on.
Or poured Jack Daniel's down your throat, while his bald head and wolf's-tail Mohawk glinted with firelight.
Sometimes in endless reveries spent mulling the state of things, I hit a mind block where I can't make heads or tails of what is going on, or where it leads.
2 Tacos, hard or soft, your choice of Ground beef, Chicken, Shredded Beef, Pork Wednesdays: Flip night, flip a coin, guess heads or tails correctly and your drink is free.
Rolling around in compost or smearing themselves from head to tail with goose poop is as delightful to some dogs as a sensuous massage with aromatic body oils is to us.
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In science:

The directions R and L can be respectively thought of as corresponding to the heads and tails of the coin, or equivalently as an internal chirality state of the particle.
Limit theorems and absorption problems for one-dimensional correlated random walks
The set of moves we used is displayed in Fig. 25 and is composed of (1) the move of the head or the tail of the chain in a neighbouring site, (2) the flip of a corner conformation and (3) a crankschaft.
Simple models of protein folding and of non--conventional drug design
A quotient is not realizable if it contains two distinct j -edges with common head and different tails or vice-versa.
Words Maps and Spectra of Random Graph Lifts
Thus, P(CM ) is less than the probability that in an infinite sequence of tosses of a fair coin there are never 2M + 1 consecutive M ց {supx>0 |Px heads (or tails).
Systems of one-dimensional random walks in a common random environment
If we get heads-heads or tails-tails, we reject the tosses and try again.
How Random Is Quantum Randomness? An Experimental Approach
Assuming that the coin is perfectly symmetric, one can expect that both head or tail will appear 50% of the time (on average).
Random Numbers in Scientific Computing: An Introduction
In 1937, the Radio Zenith foundation carried out an experiment in telepathy: a set of senders picked series of 5 “heads or tails” (or equivalent), which the listeners had to guess.
Assessing Cognitive Randomness: A Kolmogorov Complexity Approach
Suppose we start with a coin (that is, a classical bit) whose value (“heads” or “tails” – say, heads) is perfectly known to us.
Unifying typical entanglement and coin tossing: on randomization in probabilistic theories
In other words, if the coin’s state is 0 (or heads), the environment’s state must be some bit string from a set S0 ; if the coin’s state is 1 (tails), it must be some bit string from a set S1 .
Unifying typical entanglement and coin tossing: on randomization in probabilistic theories
For instance, it can be imagined that one never wins at head or tail, but the longer one plays, the less probable it is.
Universal adaptive self-stabilizing traversal scheme: random walk and reloading wave
The probability of a head or a tail at a given moment is 1/2 independently of the prehistory of heads and tails till the present moment.
Thermo- and gas-dynamical processes in NPPs after accidents
Interactions between hydrophilic units, water or lipid heads, and hydrophobic units, oil or lipid tails, were described by squarewell potentials that extended over the nearest and next-nearest neighbors.
Biological and synthetic membranes: What can be learned from a coarse-grained description?
Performing a Bernoulli experiment means that one throws a generalized coin and records either “0” or “1” depending on whether one gets head or tail.
Introduction to Randomness and Statistics
The machine mak “head” is chosen or if “tail” is chosen.
Testing Reactive Probabilistic Processes
To the user this process may as well represent the behaviour of the machine – the user cannot see whether the machine makes the ch oice before or after making the “head or tail” offers.
Testing Reactive Probabilistic Processes
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