Where does the term “Dovetail” come from and What does Dovetail mean?

In the mid-sixteenth century, when the term dovetail was used in joinery and carpentry first appeared in print, the joint was also known as “swallowe tayle,” to follow the spelling of the period.

You can see an example of the joint on well-made bureau or desk drawers.

It is composed of a series of wedge-shaped tenons and mortises which fit snugly into a corresponding series of mortises and tenons.

The name arises from the shape, that of the V-like or wedge-like shape of the tail of dove or swallow.