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
Examples from the Web for nail
MOSCOW—Every now and then I run into Anna Chapman at a nail salon called “Little Fingers” on Potapovsky Avenue in downtown Moscow.
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|Melissa Leon|November 24, 2014|DAILY BEAST
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|Katie Baker|November 8, 2014|DAILY BEAST
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|Michael Tomasky|November 5, 2014|DAILY BEAST
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|Marlow Stern|August 4, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Asitunan lag diyútay ug mahuswà ang kútiks, Just apply a little acetone on it, and the nail polish will come off.A Dictionary of Cebuano Visayan|John U. Wolff
If stamping is desired, make rows of small circles, regular or irregular, by using the nail set and a wood mallet.The Boy Mechanic, Book 2|Various
She got up, pulled Jack's heavy sweater off a nail in the corner, and went out without another word to him or a look toward him.The Lookout Man|B. M. Bower
Nor was the Squire less aggrieved at first, for clearly it was to him a matter of high concern to nail Swift Nicks.The Yeoman Adventurer|George W. Gough
But he had stepped to the wall, and taken a riding-whip from a nail.Tess of the Storm Country|Grace Miller White
- 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