1. A slim, pointed piece of metal hammered into material as a fastener.
a. A fingernail or toenail.
b. A claw or talon.
3. Something resembling a nail in shape, sharpness, or use.
4. A measure of length formerly used for cloth, equal to 1/16 yard (5.7 centimeters).
tr.v. nailed, nail·ing, nailsPhrasal Verb:
1. To fasten, join, or attach with or as if with a nail.
2. To cover, enclose, or shut by fastening with nails: nail up a window.
3. To keep fixed, motionless, or intent: Fear nailed me to my seat.
a. To stop and seize; catch: Police nailed the suspect.
b. To detect and expose: nailed the senator in a lie; nail corruption before it gets out of control.
a. To strike or bring down: nail a bird in flight; nail a running back.
b. To perform successfully or have noteworthy success in: nailed the dive; nailed the exam.
6. Baseball To put out (a base runner).
7. Vulgar Slang To have sexual intercourse with.
1. To discover or establish conclusively: nailed down the story by checking all the facts.
2. To win: nailed down another victory in the golf tournament.
3. To specify or fix: We were finally able to nail down a meeting time.
[Middle English, from Old English nægl, fingernail, toenail; see nogh- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
(click for a larger image)nail
left to right: common, finishing, ring, and roofing nails
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.