Tailgate, to

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Also: Ride someone's bumper

Meaning of Idiom 'Tailgate'

To tailgate means to drive dangerously close behind another car or vehicle on the road. 1,2


When a driver is said to be tailgating, the implication is often that they are doing so deliberatly and carelessly. 1

Someone who tailgates is a tailgater.


"My nerves are shot. This fellow tailgated me all the way to work and the traffic was too heavy to change lanes."

"If there is one thing I hate it's a tailgater!"

"I wish the police would give out more tickets for tailgating. It's more dangerous than speeding."

"This car has been riding my bumper for miles."


Used since at least the 1970's.

Although the term tailgate, today, almost always refers to the hinged gate at the back of a pickup truck, it has been used to refer other vehicles with back gates which open into cargo or passenger compartments, such as station wagons, hatchbacks, vans, and utility vehicles.

A bumper is a horizontal bar fixed to the back of a vehicle, intended to reduce damage when the back of the vehicle is struck by another.

1. Brenner, Gail Abel. Webster's New World American Idioms Handbook. Wiley, 2003.

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