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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 нога (nogá, foot, leg), ноготь (nogoti, nail), Ancient Greek ὄνυξ (ónyx), 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. One of the four round pedestals (the nails) in Bristol, on which merchants once carried out their business.
  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).
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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. (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;
  4. (transitive, slang) To expose as a sham.
  5. (transitive, slang) To accomplish (a task) completely and successfully.
    I really nailed that test.
  6. (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.
  7. (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

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