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nail

[neyl] /neɪl/
noun
1.
a slender, typically rod-shaped rigid piece of metal, usually in any of numerous standard lengths from a fraction of an inch to several inches and having one end pointed and the other enlarged and flattened, for hammering into or through wood, other building materials, etc., as used in building, in fastening, or in holding separate pieces together.
2.
a thin, horny plate, consisting of modified epidermis, growing on the upper side of the end of a finger or toe.
3.
a former measure of length for cloth, equal to 2¼ inches (6.4 cm).
verb (used with object)
4.
to fasten with a nail or nails:
to nail the cover on a box.
5.
to enclose or confine (something) by nailing (often followed by up):
to nail up oranges in a crate.
6.
to make fast or keep firmly in one place or position:
Surprise nailed him to the spot.
7.
to accomplish perfectly:
the only gymnast to nail the dismount.
8.
Informal.
  1. to secure by prompt action; catch or seize:
    The police nailed him with the goods.
  2. to catch (a person) in some difficulty, lie, etc.
  3. to detect and expose (a lie, scandal, etc.).
9.
Slang. to hit (a person):
He nailed him on the chin with an uppercut in the first round.
10.
to focus intently on an object or subject:
She kept her eyes nailed on the suspicious customer.
11.
Obsolete. to stud with or as if with nails.
Verb phrases
12.
nail down, to make final; settle once and for all:
Signing the contract will nail down our agreement.
Idioms
13.
hit the nail on the head, to say or do exactly the right thing; be accurate or correct:
Your analysis really hit the nail on the head.
14.
nail in someone's / something's coffin, something that hastens the demise or failure of a person or thing:
Every moment's delay is another nail in his coffin.
15.
on the nail, Informal.
  1. of present interest; under discussion.
  2. without delay; on the spot; at once:
    He was offered a job on the nail.
Origin
900
before 900; (noun) Middle English nail(l), nayl(l), Old English nægl, cognate with Old Frisian neil, Old Saxon, Old High German nagal, Dutch nagel, German Nagel, Old Norse nagl fingernail, all < Germanic *naglaz; akin as derivative to Lithuanian nãgas, nagà hoof, OPruss nage foot, OCS noga leg, foot (Serbo-Croatian nòga, Czech noha, Russian nogá; probably orig. jocular reference to the foot as a hoof), OCS nogŭtĭ, Tocharian A maku, B mekwa fingernail, claw, all < North European Indo-European *Honogwh-; further akin to Old Irish ingen, Welsh ewin, Breton ivin < Celtic *ṇgwhīnā, Latin unguis < Italo-Celtic *Hongwhi-; Greek ónyx, stem onych-, Armenian ełungn < *Honogwh-; (v.) Middle English nail(l)(e), nayl(l)e(n), Old English næglian, cognate with Old Saxon neglian, Old High German negilen, Old Norse negla < Germanic *nagl-janan; compare Gothic ganagljan
Related forms
nailless, adjective
naillike, adjective
renail, verb (used with object)
Synonyms
5. fix, secure, pin, fasten.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for nail
  • Ok, you don't need a hammer to drive a nail, but it certainly is much smoother if you do have a hammer.
  • But it also meant a nail-biting journey in the car with my father, for whom driving was sport.
  • As they say, if a hammer is your only tool, the solution to every problem is a nail.
  • Put another nail in the coffin of our country's economy and add another few hundred people to the unemployment lines.
  • She had to fight tooth and nail to get the opportunity.
  • They are plastic caps that get glued on over the nail, so no declawing surgery, and they stay on for about a month.
  • He should be immediately sent packing out to the state that he sneers at to do a little of the nail-pounding he sneers at.
  • He who buys a house gets many a plank and nail for nothing.
  • The carpenter holds the hammer in one hand, the nail in the other, and they do their work equally well.
  • Then one of them caught sight of the wisp of cloth on the nail, and cried out to the other.
British Dictionary definitions for nail

nail

/neɪl/
noun
1.
a fastening device usually made from round or oval wire, having a point at one end and a head at the other
2.
anything resembling such a fastening device, esp in function or shape
3.
the horny plate covering part of the dorsal surface of the fingers or toes See fingernail, toenail related adjectives ungual ungular
4.
the claw of a mammal, bird, or reptile
5.
(slang) a hypodermic needle, used for injecting drugs
6.
a unit of length, formerly used for measuring cloth, equal to two and a quarter inches
7.
a nail in one's coffin, an experience or event that tends to shorten life or hasten the end of something
8.
bite one's nails
  1. to chew off the ends of one's fingernails
  2. to be worried or apprehensive
9.
hard as nails
  1. in tough physical condition
  2. without sentiment or feelings
10.
hit the nail on the head, to do or say something correct or telling
11.
on the nail, (of payments) at once (esp in the phrase pay on the nail)
verb (transitive)
12.
to attach with or as if with nails
13.
(informal) to arrest or seize
14.
(informal) to hit or bring down, as with a shot: I nailed the sniper
15.
(informal) to expose or detect (a lie or liar)
16.
to fix or focus (one's eyes, attention, etc) on an object
17.
to stud with nails
See also nail down, nail up
Derived Forms
nailer, noun
nail-less, adjective
Word Origin
Old English nǣgl; related to Old High German nagal nail, Latin unguis fingernail, claw, Greek onux
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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Word Origin and History for nail
n.

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.

v.

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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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nail in Medicine

nail (nāl)
n.

  1. A fingernail or toenail.

  2. A slender rod used in operations to fasten together the divided extremities of a broken bone.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for nail

nail

noun

A hypodermic needle (1960s+ Narcotics)

verb
  1. To catch; seize; nab: the feared and famous Batman and Robin who'd nailed him (1766+)
  2. To do the sex act to someone; fuck: the publishing cupcake in the Florsheims who nailed you on the couch and then fired you
  3. NAIL something DOWN: We've got it nailed
Related Terms

hard as nails


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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nail in the Bible

for fastening. (1.) Hebrew yathed, "piercing," a peg or nail of any material (Ezek. 15:3), more especially a tent-peg (Ex. 27:19; 35:18; 38:20), with one of which Jael (q.v.) pierced the temples of Sisera (Judg. 4:21, 22). This word is also used metaphorically (Zech. 10:4) for a prince or counsellor, just as "the battle-bow" represents a warrior. (2.) Masmer, a "point," the usual word for a nail. The words of the wise are compared to "nails fastened by the masters of assemblies" (Eccl. 12:11, A.V.). The Revised Version reads, "as nails well fastened are the words of the masters," etc. Others (as Plumptre) read, "as nails fastened are the masters of assemblies" (comp. Isa. 22:23; Ezra 9:8). David prepared nails for the temple (1 Chr. 22:3; 2 Chr. 3:9). The nails by which our Lord was fixed to the cross are mentioned (John 20:25; Col. 2:14). Nail of the finger (Heb. tsipporen, "scraping"). To "pare the nails" is in Deut. 21:12 (marg., "make," or "dress," or "suffer to grow") one of the signs of purification, separation from former heathenism (comp. Lev. 14:8; Num. 8:7). In Jer. 17:1 this word is rendered "point."

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Idioms and Phrases with nail
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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