nail in one's coffin


Something that might hasten or contribute to one's death, as in Every cigarette you smoke is another nail in your coffin. This expression, alluding to fastening down a coffin lid, is today almost always used for a harmful habit such as tobacco use (giving rise to the slang term coffin nail for a cigar or cigarette). The idea was first expressed in an ode by Pindar (the pseudonym of John Wolcot) in 1792: “Care to our coffin adds a nail, no doubt.”

QUIZZES

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Question 1 of 10
What does “barren” mean?
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.