verb (used with object)
- to secure by prompt action; catch or seize: The police nailed him with the goods.
- to catch (a person) in some difficulty, lie, etc.
- to detect and expose (a lie, scandal, etc.).
- of present interest; under discussion.
- without delay; on the spot; at once: He was offered a job on the nail.
Origin of nail
Synonyms for nail
Related Words for nailattach, tack, hit, whack, pin, catch, hook, pound, join, secure, beat, bind, sock, drive, spike, strike, hold, hammer, nab, seize
Examples from the Web for nail
Contemporary Examples of nail
MOSCOW—Every now and then I run into Anna Chapman at a nail salon called “Little Fingers” on Potapovsky Avenue in downtown Moscow.Ex-Spy Anna Chapman, From Russia Unloved
November 27, 2014
Along the way, he accidentally embeds a nail in his foot, which is not symbolic at all.The Walking Dead’s ‘Crossed’: The Stage Is Now Set for a Bloody, Deadly Midseason Finale
November 24, 2014
The phrase means, “the nail that sticks out always gets hit by a hammer.”Sor Juana: Mexico’s Most Erotic Poet and Its Most Dangerous Nun
November 8, 2014
Not enough that Democrats can win Arkansas, God knows, but maybe enough that they can nail down North Carolina again.Inside the Democrats’ Godawful Midterm Election Wipeout
November 5, 2014
Once you nail that down, you realize that all the dance steps emerge from that.‘Get On Up’ Star Chadwick Boseman on Becoming James Brown—With A Little Help From Mick Jagger
August 4, 2014
Historical Examples of nail
In the beginning, a star, when drawn with a nail into a brick looked as follows.Ancient Man
Hendrik Willem van Loon
On a nail driven into the door frame hung a heavy bull whip.The Monster Men
Edgar Rice Burroughs
He was sent home, and hung upon a nail over against my table.The Uncommercial Traveller
You left them hanging upon the nail, and you found them there.The Channings
Mrs. Henry Wood
The latter was angered, and he swallowed her, tooth and nail.The Chinese Fairy Book
- to chew off the ends of one's fingernails
- to be worried or apprehensive
- in tough physical condition
- without sentiment or feelings
Word Origin for nail
Old English negel "metal pin," nægl "fingernail (handnægl), toenail," from Proto-Germanic *naglaz (cf. Old Norse nagl "fingernail," nagli "metal nail;" Old Saxon and Old High German nagel, Old Frisian neil, Middle Dutch naghel, Dutch nagel, German Nagel "fingernail, small metal spike"), from PIE root *(o)nogh "nail" (cf. Greek onyx "claw, fingernail;" Latin unguis "nail, claw;" Old Church Slavonic noga "foot," noguti "nail, claw;" Lithuanian naga "hoof," nagutis "fingernail;" Old Irish ingen, Old Welsh eguin "nail, claw").
The "fingernail" sense seems to be the original one. Nail polish attested from 1891. To bite one's nails as a sign of anxiety is attested from 1570s. Nail-biting is from 1805. Hard as nails is from 1828. To hit the nail on the head "say or do just the right thing" is first recorded 1520s. Phrase on the nail "on the spot, exactly" is from 1590s, of obscure origin; OED says it is not even certain it belongs to this sense of nail.
Old English næglian "to fasten with nails," from Proto-Germanic *ganaglijanan (cf. Old Saxon neglian, Old Norse negla, Old High German negilen, German nageln, Gothic ganagljan "to nail"), from the root of nail (n.). Related: Nailed; nailing. Meaning "to catch, seize" is first recorded 1766, probably from earlier sense "to keep fixed in a certain position" (1610s). Meaning "to succeed in hitting" is from 1886. To nail down "to fix down with nails" is from 1660s.
In addition to the idioms beginning with nail
- nail down
- nail in one's coffin
- bite one's nails
- fight tooth and nail
- hard as nails
- hit the bull's-eye (nail on the head)
- on the nail