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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English nail, nayl, Old English næġel, from Proto-Germanic *naglaz (compare West Frisian neil, Low German Nagel, Dutch nagel, German Nagel, Danish negl, Swedish nagel), from Proto-Indo-European *h₃nogʰ- (nail) (compare Irish ionga, Latin unguis, Albanian nyell (ankle, hard part of a limb), Lithuanian nagas, Russian нога́ (nogá, foot, leg), ноготь (nogotʹ, nail), Ancient Greek ὄνυξ (ónuks), Persian ناخن (nâxon), Sanskrit नख (nakhá)).


A metal nail (fastener).

nail (plural nails)

  1. The thin, horny plate at the ends of fingers and toes on humans and some other animals.
    When I'm nervous I bite my nails.
  2. The basal thickened portion of the anterior wings of certain hemiptera.
  3. The terminal horny plate on the beak of ducks, and other allied birds.
  4. A spike-shaped metal fastener used for joining wood or similar materials. The nail is generally driven through two or more layers of material by means of impacts from a hammer or other device. It is then held in place by friction.
  5. A round pedestal on which merchants once carried out their business, such as the four nails outside The Exchange, Bristol.
  6. An archaic English unit of length equivalent to 1/20th of an ell or 1/16th of a yard (2.25 inches or 5,715 cm).
Derived terms[edit]

See also[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Old English næġlan


nail (third-person singular simple present nails, present participle nailing, simple past and past participle nailed)

  1. (transitive) To fix (an object) to another object using a nail.
    He nailed the placard to the post.
  2. (intransitive) To drive a nail.
    He used the ax head for nailing.
  3. (transitive) To stud or boss with nails, or as if with nails.
    • Dryden
      The rivets of your arms were nailed with gold.
  4. (slang) To catch.
    • 2005, Plato, Sophist. Translation by Lesley Brown. 261a.
      we'll nail the sophist to it, if we can get him on that charge;
  5. (transitive, slang) To expose as a sham.
  6. (transitive, slang) To accomplish (a task) completely and successfully.
    I really nailed that test.
  7. (transitive, slang) To hit (a target) effectively with some weapon.
    • 2011 October 1, Tom Fordyce, “Rugby World Cup 2011: England 16-12 Scotland”, BBC Sport:
      Fly-half Ruaridh Jackson departed early with injury but Chris Paterson nailed a penalty from wide out left to give Scotland an early lead, and Jackson's replacement Dan Parks added three more points with a penalty which skimmed over the crossbar.
  8. (transitive, slang) Of a male, to engage in sexual intercourse with.
    There’s a benefit gala at the Boston Pops tonight, and... well, I’m trying to nail the flautist. - Brian Griffin in the TV series Family Guy
  9. To spike, as a cannon.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Crabb to this entry?)

See also[edit]





nail f pl

  1. Mutated form of dail.


Welsh mutation
radical soft nasal aspirate
dail ddail nail unchanged