Following the Norman conquest, land could be held in “fee simple”, in which case any heirs could inherit, or in “fee tail” which meant that it could only pass to direct descendants. It was also possible to leave land to someone as a “life tenancy”, meaning the ownership would revert to the original owner or another named owner on the death of the incumbent. Life tenants were normally legally obliged to do nothing that would cause deterioration in the value of the property during their tenancy.
Combining “fee tail” and “life tenancy” to create a “tenant in tail” became known as “entail”, a practice commonly used to preserve the integrity of landed estates by willing the “contingent remainder” of …
Clark, Robert. "Entail (Strict Settlement)". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 09 November 2009
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=340, accessed 08 December 2016.]