Definition of nail in US English:

nail

noun

  • 1A small metal spike with a broadened flat head, driven typically into wood with a hammer to join things together or to serve as a peg or hook.

    • ‘I cut two big pieces of wood and drove nails into them and tied them together.’
    • ‘One is a collection with dresses in black and white geometric patterns decorated with black leather and metal ornamental nails.’
    • ‘When choosing nails, bolts, screws and metal fasteners, use only hot dipped galvanized fasteners.’
    • ‘After all, those pockets could come in handy when you're juggling hammers, nails and screws.’
    • ‘Some residents had complained about sharp wood splinters and nails encroaching upon the children's play area in the park.’
    • ‘Built on sloping ground, the two-storey houses are made of wood held together by wooden nails and wedges with no iron or steel used.’
    • ‘However, one thing is certain that it's time to get out the nails and hammer, locate the wood and wheels and build your own flying machine.’
    • ‘My salvation came in the form of a little nail driven deep in the wood.’
    • ‘I also need a hammer and nails, picture hooks and the step ladder.’
    • ‘Now, the trick is to hit the flat part of the nail with the flat part of the hammer, thus driving it into the wood.’
    • ‘If you look closely, you can see some of the nails poking through the wood and it feels authentically gutsy.’
    • ‘The health and safety regulations included ensuring any wood collected had no nails in it and all materials prior to burning had to be fenced off.’
    • ‘Bolts, nails and other metal scrap are dangerously strewn about on the bridges posing threat not only to the pedestrians but to the vehicles as well.’
    • ‘The gypsum board must be attached to the wood furring strips or underlying masonry using nails or screws.’
    • ‘Wood formwork designed for internal vibration is usually joined by nails between the stud and face sheet and between the stud and the walers.’
    • ‘Once I had it positioned, I used wood glue and brad nails from the inside to permanently fasten the front oak trim piece with no visible fasteners.’
    • ‘It was a long piece of wood connected to a smaller piece of wood by some nails and a screw.’
    • ‘Not only that: the lines and shadows that make up the drawing are created entirely from masonry nails.’
    • ‘My grandad was an engineer by trade and we had loads of tools and boxes of nails, screws, hooks and no end of other fixings.’
    • ‘I mean people talk about how you'd like to see children play out practical games, if you like, give them a hammer and nails and a piece of wood.’
    pin, spike, tack, rivet
    View synonyms
  • 2A horny covering on the upper surface of the tip of the finger and toe in humans and other primates.

    • ‘Choking back my breath to keep from crying out I clutched at my chest and felt my nails bite into the flesh of my palms.’
    • ‘To avoid ingrown toenails, cut your nails straight across.’
    • ‘Laura started biting the nail on her right index finger.’
    • ‘The surface of the nails were smooth and without any defects.’
    • ‘She placed her finger on the edge of the glass, scraping her nail across its surface.’
    • ‘Women have come to realize that they don't need to settle for a man with out-of-control eyebrows, chewed up nails, and dirty toenails.’
    • ‘The sisters had their nails done together, recently splurging an extra $5 to have tiny flowers painted on their wine-colored toes.’
    • ‘The rest of the nail bed provides a surface for the growing nail to slide over as it advances at the rate of about 0.1 mm/day.’
    • ‘Debris from under fingernails should be removed with a nail cleaner under running water.’
    • ‘Your nail bed is the skin beneath the nail plate.’
    • ‘Make sure you get in between the fingers and under the nails where uninvited germs like to hang out.’
    • ‘Keratin is an extremely tough protein material that comprises the bulk of hair, nails and horny tissue.’
    • ‘In the grand scheme of things, dry skin, rough nails and cracked fingertips are not serious health problems.’
    • ‘Longitudinal striations are accentuated ridges in the nail surface that can occur as a normal part of the aging process.’
    • ‘Alex was clearly nervous, because she kept bending and flexing her fingers, and her nails were bitten down to the flesh.’
    • ‘She kept her index finger in her mouth, biting the nail to keep her sane.’
    • ‘Some of those patients had toenails so thick that they had outgrown the average nail clipper long ago.’
    • ‘For example - I know that vitamin E is good for human hair, nails, and skin - so does this apply to cats as well?’
    • ‘The dorsal fold that lies on the surface of the nail is the eponychium, or cuticle.’
    • ‘Muscles, organs, hair, nails and ligaments are all composed of protein, so it's obvious why protein is an important part of the diet.’
    fingernail, thumbnail, toenail
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1 An animal's claw.
      • ‘The first two phalanges of each digit are flattened and expanded, while the last is reduced and bears a nail, not a hoof.’
      • ‘It was an agile climber, with long hind limbs for leaping, nails on its digits, and a grasping big toe.’
      • ‘The nails are actually somewhere between true nail and hoof in form.’
      • ‘The scratching that they do is a way of trimming their nails and it removes the old outer part of the claws.’
      • ‘In mammals, alpha-keratin is found in hair, bristles, hooves, nails, and claws as well as in soft skin.’
      • ‘Clipping your dog's nails might be easier than you think.’
      • ‘Brushing a dog is not the end-all of grooming - clipping a dog's nails and cleaning his ears every week are also a part of the routine.’
      • ‘Closer examination, however, reveals the loris's close-set eyes and the nails on its feet and hands.’
      • ‘All toes except the hallux have claws; the hallux has a nail.’
      • ‘The nails of the caviines are short and either sharp or blunt; those of Dolichotis are hooflike on the hindfeet and clawlike on the forefeet.’
      • ‘You should check your dog's nails at least once each month.’
      • ‘According to zoo officials, the stuffing is almost over and finishing touches are being given to the animal's eyes and nails.’
      • ‘Click-Click-Click-Click… It was the sound of canine nails on a hard floor.’
      • ‘It may sometimes be unnecessary to trim the nails on the hind feet of your Shih Tzu as they seem to grow much slower than the fore feet.’
      • ‘Dugongids lack the vestigial nails on their flippers that are possessed by manatees.’
      • ‘They have sharp nails and their hind legs are naturally very strong.’
      • ‘In one view, grasping ability with nails, and forward facing eyes evolved together to enable the animals to prey on insects found at the base of trees.’
    2. 2.2 A hard growth on the upper mandible of some soft-billed birds.
      • ‘Walking on land, they pick up food with the nail of their bill or strip seed heads and foliage with the bill's edge.’
  • 3A measure of length for cloth, equal to 21/4 inches.

  • 4A measure of wool, beef, or other commodity, roughly equal to 7 or 8 pounds.

verb

[with object]
  • 1Fasten to a surface or to something else with a nail or nails.

    ‘nail the edge framing to the wall’
    ‘the teacher was nailing up the lists’
    • ‘We nailed boards, tar-paper and old paneling over our broken windows.’
    • ‘Boards nailed on tree trunks frequently advertise computer training institutes, he said.’
    • ‘Or were the flags put up in order to deflect racial tension, as if to brace for the worst, akin to Floridians nailing boards over their windows before the hurricanes hit.’
    • ‘Every opening was sealed and covered with a thick sheet of wood seemingly screwed down and into the frame with thick bolts at each corner and nailed along every edge.’
    • ‘The block and facings were then attached to a quadrant-shaped board nailed to the underside of the carcass.’
    • ‘The coffin will be placed on a catafalque of rough pine boards, nailed together and covered with black cloth, which was first used for Abraham Lincoln's funeral.’
    • ‘Secure each additional board to the furring strips by nailing diagonally through the top edge of the tongue.’
    • ‘Nobody plays at the park anymore, except for small children, and the school has been locked up, boards nailed over the windows, for the last ten years.’
    • ‘I've got most of the roof done, and all I need to do there is nail a few more boards to it and smear that roofing tar across it.’
    • ‘The two of them pulled the shelves away from the door and removed the boards that had been nailed over it from the wall, and then stopped to catch their breath.’
    • ‘Traditionally, skirting boards are nailed to the wall using oval or lost head nails which can then be punched into the board.’
    • ‘Toe board jacks nailed to the roof support you and your materials with a 2 by 6 plank.’
    • ‘Every foot or so along the twenty-five foot climb from ground to balcony a board had been nailed to the front: an easy ladder to the trap door.’
    • ‘Nadia flicked the small wind chimes she'd nailed to the edge of her desk, taking comfort is the light echoes.’
    • ‘So the shelter was finished, the tin roof nailed down and the walls re-enforced.’
    • ‘Water gushed through as they began to nail another board in place.’
    • ‘Do not nail the edge rafters where the sheathing meets until the adjoining sheet is in place.’
    • ‘Finally, glue or nail an edging strip to the skirting board.’
    • ‘All windows had been nailed shut with boards, and the men especially complained about the darkness.’
    • ‘Following local custom, they write the names of the crew and the dates of their stay on a board that is nailed to the wall of the original Portuguese chapel.’
    fasten, attach, fix, affix, secure, tack, hammer, pin, post
    View synonyms
  • 2informal Expose (someone) as deceitful or criminal; catch or arrest.

    ‘have you nailed the killer?’
    • ‘The police, through hours and hours and hours of work, nailed that criminal.’
    • ‘Maybe it's true they can't easily get hard evidence to nail the culprits.’
    • ‘Detectives hunting a gunman who executed a father-of-three in a gangland murder have appealed to the criminal underworld to help nail the killer.’
    • ‘Federal prosecutors, at least in those cities, should be applauded for doing their best to nail cops suspected of abuse.’
    • ‘Though not his most attractive feature, it may well be the one that nails his killer.’
    • ‘The technique is not unlike nailing the murderous Al Capone for tax evasion.’
    • ‘And you know, again, it's so hard to nail these white collar criminals, because they get the best legal talent.’
    • ‘The rise in burglaries has disappointed police who have introduced two ‘target squads’ to nail burglars and car thieves.’
    • ‘It seemed like no problem nailing Oswald as the assassin.’
    • ‘Scottish police hope eventually to nail the criminal as a direct result of traces of sweat he left behind on torch batteries.’
    • ‘ASBOs allow the police to nail people for offences too minor to be criminal.’
    • ‘He only has an hour to nail his boss, the real killer, before being identified himself.’
    • ‘The principle of the police being able to view encrypted data, so that they can nail paedophiles, drug dealers, etc, has some genuine merits.’
    • ‘Unlike now when households harbour criminals and share the loot, police will always find it difficult to nail the thieves.’
    • ‘The only people who can nail the perpetrators are the reporters who heard the leaks.’
    • ‘It is a year since she was buried, yet we are no closer to nailing her killers’
    • ‘Retailers should do everything they can to nail store thieves.’
    • ‘Catching him up on a financial technicality is akin to nailing Capone on tax evasion.’
    • ‘He knows that nailing cops is a rough task for even the most diligent prosecutor.’
    • ‘And it's our duty as citizens to give police a fighting chance to nail them.’
    • ‘Bosses at the coach company are offering a cash reward to anyone who helps nail the thugs responsible for a £15,000 wrecking spree.’
    catch, capture, apprehend, arrest, take into custody, seize, take in, bring in
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1 Expose (a lie or other instance of deception).
      • ‘Of course, each has a deep dark secret that the film painstakingly exposes, but attentive viewers will nail them all well before the end.’
      • ‘Must we wait another twenty years to nail this other lie to the wall as by then it will be too late for this radio station.’
      • ‘The Clerk of the Senate nailed that lie five years ago when he pointed out the Constitution makes clear federal law takes precedence over state law.’
      • ‘But many white-collar crime experts question whether a similar tactic could nail this pair.’
      • ‘Moreover, they had a refreshing ability to avoid being nailed by those same tabloids that uncovered acts of debauchery by British players on a depressingly regular basis.’
      • ‘It nails the lie that there can't be any alternative outside of this Party.’
      • ‘We had already nailed the lies of the Prime Minister and his Chancellor.’
      • ‘The book sets out to nail the lies and myths about the man, to set the record straight.’
      • ‘Secondly, Ryder recurrently nailed the more pained aspects of the human condition with laser-like insight.’
      • ‘Let me finally nail the lie that service pensions are free.’
      • ‘The referendum will give pro-Europeans the chance to nail these lies.’
      • ‘A scientist involved in embryonic stem cell research nails the Senator's lies about the matter.’
      expose, reveal, uncover, unmask, bring to light, lay bare, smoke something out, unearth, detect, identify
      View synonyms
  • 3Baseball
    (of a fielder) put (a runner) out by throwing to a base.

    ‘he dropped a perfect throw home that should have nailed Joe by yards’
    • ‘For a split-second I thought he might have a shot at an inside-the-park homer, though a strong throw probably would have nailed him.’
    • ‘A great defensive play to nail the lead runner would have left a man on 1st with 1 out, a run expectancy of 0.573.’
    • ‘He calls games effectively, blocks balls well and throws accurately, nailing 30 percent of runners.’
    • ‘On the mound, he had also nailed three Oriole batters with pitches.’
    • ‘Even if the throws don't nail runners, the goal is to keep them close enough so they can't score on singles.’
  • 4North American (of a player) defeat or outwit (an opponent)

    ‘Navratilova tried to nail her on the backhand side’
    • ‘After being nailed by three successive left hooks flush on the face, he was sent to the canvas for a mandatory count.’
    • ‘The object is to hit your opponent while avoiding being nailed yourself.’
    • ‘He held a narrow 8-7 advantage at the first bell, but turned on the style in the second round and nailed his opponent with some brilliant combinations.’
    • ‘She nailed both of her shots to even the score at 50 apiece.’
    • ‘The Heriot's cover nailed him and the chance was lost.’
    • ‘Then he's going to have to throw the ball back into the infield, and sometimes, there's going to be a guy trying to take an extra base, and Chuck is going to have to try to nail him.’
    • ‘He nailed the Expos player twice in a game last week.’
    • ‘If we're going to fine people for hitting quarterbacks and receivers with the top of their helmets, we have to nail Hampton as well.’
    • ‘The sharpshooter kept the West in the game down the stretch, nailing a couple jumpers to keep the score close.’
    • ‘A linebacker came up and nailed him head-on, stopped him cold.’
    • ‘Muriel meanwhile nailed Crystal with a shot when her back was turned.’
  • 5(of a player) secure (a victory) conclusively.

    ‘there's no doubt I had chances to nail it in the last set’
    • ‘Though Kandy had the edge in the scrums and lineouts, the tough Sailors with their bruising play nailed their opponents.’
    • ‘After all, a kicker who nails a game-winner one week can find himself cut eight days later if he doesn't come through during the next game.’
    • ‘His final birdie putt pulled him level with defending champion who failed to nail his own birdie putt for victory.’
    • ‘Her opponent from Eastridge nailed a cross-court winner on the return.’
    • ‘Last, but not least, for the first time in this league race, the Ibrox men entered into the encounter knowing pole position would be nailed with a victory.’
    • ‘Two weeks later, they nailed it with time to spare.’
    • ‘If a player cannot nail the right combination of darts he will lose.’
    • ‘He set the tone for the USA, opening the night's competition on the floor exercise and nailing his routine with a 9.7.’
    • ‘Which is essentially what Hassell did, nailing six of seven shots in the second half, and 7 of 10 overall.’
  • 6American Football
    informal Tackle (the quarterback or ballcarrier), especially at or behind the line of scrimmage.

    • ‘His best asset is a relentless attitude about nailing the ballcarrier on every play.’
  • 7informal Perform (an action or task) perfectly.

    ‘she absolutely nailed the high notes’
    ‘I guess they were indeed impressed (nailed it!)’
  • 8US vulgar slang (of a man) have sexual intercourse with (someone).

Phrases

  • (as) hard as nails

    • (of a person) very tough; completely callous or unfeeling.

      • ‘I wouldn't say I'm soft as putty but I wouldn't say I'm hard as nails either.’
      • ‘To put it bluntly, they tend to be as hard as nails.’
      • ‘I loved watching him as he was hard as nails and a real winner.’
      • ‘He was of the old school of player, brilliant in the air and hard as nails in the tackle, he gave as good as he got and was no mean player.’
      • ‘He was as hard as nails, and even if we weren't scared of him, he had our respect and a certain amount of hero worship.’
      • ‘Sharp as a tack, hard as nails and always good-humoured, he is a good man to have around.’
      • ‘Lisa, who's hard as nails, was clearly having none of it, and handed the woman a ten pound note for the £12.70 charge, saying ‘I don't care if your children do starve’.’
      • ‘‘One of these days you're going to say something like that and someone is going to hurt you for it,’ he hissed, his voice cold and hard as nails.’
      • ‘He was light but as hard as nails and he would go through you for a shortcut.’
      • ‘Women are soft like fluffy cotton, men are hard as nails and plywood.’
      callous, hard-hearted, heartless, with a heart of stone, stony, stony-hearted, unfeeling, unsympathetic, uncaring, insensitive, unsentimental, cold-hearted, cold, hard-bitten, tough, unforgiving, lacking compassion, uncharitable, inflexible, unbending, implacable
      View synonyms
  • on the nail

    • informal (of payment) without delay.

      • ‘Why denigrate cash on the nail as a motive for art?’
      • ‘The other is to fight fire with fire and put our own cash on the barrelhead.’
      • ‘Pretty much everyone who couldn't afford to put cash on the barrelhead for a place at the banquet.’
      • ‘The DCI chuckled: ‘You probably don't know that he bought that cottage cash on the nail.’’
      • ‘After considerable persuasion and $50 cash on the barrelhead, O'Shea went home with the kitten, who was about 10 weeks old by then.’
      immediately, at once, without delay, straight away, right away, promptly, on the spot, directly, now, this minute
      View synonyms
  • a nail in the coffin

    • An action or event regarded as likely to have a detrimental or destructive effect on a situation, enterprise, or person.

      ‘this was going to put the final nail in the coffin of his career’
      • ‘The Chancellor's £5bn raid on pension funds drove a nail in the coffin of final-salary pension schemes.’
      • ‘But while I am cognizant of the slippery slope, I think it's silly to say that every less-than-ideal action is a nail in the coffin of liberty.’
      • ‘The Huntmaster said: ‘It is a nail in the coffin but they have got a few more to get in yet before we are gone completely.’’
      • ‘So can broadband technology, an explosion of choice, and the continued cultural drift toward the short and the visual finally put a nail in the coffin?’
      • ‘So if the organisation were to die out with the older generation, would it be a natural death or would it be a nail in the coffin for local democracy and community spirit?’
      • ‘Because it is a last chance when you are behind, a nail in the coffin when you are ahead.’
      • ‘It could be that the bill is a nail in the coffin of our family structure, or it could be that it is simply a reflection of a change whose time is due.’
      • ‘Genetically modified crops could put a nail in the coffin of traditional and organic farming in the area.’
      • ‘She doesn't have any really obsession for writing stories anymore, the virus attack was just a nail in the coffin.’
      • ‘But today the Government has put a nail in the coffin of any future growth, because this Budget is a no-growth Budget.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • nail someone down

    • Elicit a firm promise or commitment from someone.

      ‘I can't nail her down to a specific date’
      • ‘Now, I am not looking to nail you down about what material you want to put on - I understand that those things are dependent upon how the material shapes - but what time are we looking at?’
      • ‘We couldn't quite nail them down on their prices for the new service, but we can say that it will be comparable to other subscription services the company offers.’
      • ‘Cos the last time a target was just a lofty goal, not a commitment or a promise. Let's nail him down this time.’
      • ‘I want people to know when they come to a show that it's going to be all over the place and that it's fun without having to nail us down to any other expectation.’
  • nail something down

    • 1Fasten something securely with nails.

      • ‘Once you have nailed things down pretty well, I recommend using the third method, explained below.’
      • ‘Its front and back doors were fortified with locks and bolts and an eight-foot piece of wood and its windows were nailed down.’
      • ‘They placed a plywood sheet over the emptiness in the wall and nailed it down.’
      • ‘To help keep tips curved up, some skiers attached a wire to the tip and stretched it taut, nailing it down to a point lower on the ski.’
      • ‘The cuff is high so if you want to do a perfect topside then you really have to nail it down.’
      • ‘It was true that she was no good with her hands, but she liked passing the planks up to Martin who would in turn pass them to Em, or nail them down.’
      • ‘Solutions to this petty thievery include nailing things down, making the waitstaff responsible for keeping an eye on items, and sometimes just not using the top of the line accoutrements anymore.’
    • 2Identify something precisely.

      ‘something seems unexpected—I can't nail it down, but it makes me uneasy’
      • ‘I'll keep thinking about it and see if I can nail it down a little more precisely.’
      • ‘I don't think it's important for me to nail the reason down.’
      • ‘Sometimes you can put a piece together quickly, and sometimes you just have to wait until your sources nail it down for you.’
      • ‘Now was the time to find out for sure and nail it down.’
      • ‘So it's very, very difficult to nail it down as to who put the information out.’
      • ‘But the story by now has become a rollercoaster, and I am an agnostic until someone nails it down.’
      • ‘And because it's of course in our backyard - we're based down here - we had some very good sources and we were able to nail this story down.’
      • ‘He even recently diagnosed a problem all on his own, nailing it down to one of three things.’
      • ‘And so unexceptional, so mundane is the process that it took researchers over 20 years of observing parents and children together to nail it down.’
      • ‘If you are interested, here's one group's attempt to nail it down.’
    • 3Secure something, especially an agreement.

      ‘the company has finally nailed down the agreement with its distributors’
      • ‘He has had opportunities to win the job but hasn't come close to nailing it down.’
      • ‘That's the great danger that nothing about this handover has been nailed down, nothing that - you can't say the ink has not dried yet - the document hasn't been written yet.’
      • ‘True conservatives no doubt will rationalize this away with thoughts of what they will do to the dreaded welfare state once the partisan realignment has been nailed down.’
      • ‘They strive to nail these issues down early, and make sure that the marketing dude understands the impact of late decisions, and sees the value of the design ideas.’
      • ‘‘We spent the summer going over the language until we nailed it down,’ he says.’
      • ‘Until common standards, definitions and interpretations are nailed down and agreed, participants in future talks may as well be speaking two different languages.’

Origin

Old English nægel (noun), næglan (verb), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch nagel and German Nagel, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin unguis and Greek onux.

Pronunciation

nail

/neɪl//nāl/