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[dawr-neyl, dohr-] /ˈdɔrˌneɪl, ˈdoʊr-/
a large-headed nail formerly used for strengthening or ornamenting doors.
dead as a doornail, stone-dead:
After midnight, the town is dead as a doornail.
Origin of doornail
First recorded in 1300-50, doornail is from the Middle English word dornail. See door, nail Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for dead as a doornail


(as) dead as a doornail, dead beyond any doubt
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Slang definitions & phrases for dead as a doornail

dead as a dodo

adjective phrase

Absolutely lifeless; entirely hopeless: The Philadelphia Bulletin is dead, dead as a doornail (first form 1904+, second 1350+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with dead as a doornail

dead as a doornail

Also,dead as a dodo or herring. Totally or assuredly dead; also finished. For example, The cop announced that the body in the dumpster was dead as a doornail, or The radicalism she professed in her adolescence is now dead as a dodo, or The Equal Rights Amendment appears to be dead as a herring. The first, oldest, and most common of these similes, all of which can be applied literally to persons or, more often today, to issues, involves doornail, dating from about 1350. Its meaning is disputed but most likely it referred to the costly metal nails hammered into the outer doors of the wealthy (most people used the much cheaper wooden pegs), which were clinched on the inside of the door and therefore were “dead,” that is, could not be used again. Dead as a herring dates from the 16th century and no doubt alludes to the bad smell this dead fish gives off, making its death quite obvious. Dead as a dodo, referring to the extinct bird, dates from the early 1900s.


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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