Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.


I examined the windows, and found they were nailed down on the outside.

I feel as if I had been nailed down in a coffin, and have got fresh air.

Yet the houses and castles hold there as if they were nailed down.

The window was nailed down but her pliers soon took care of that.

Did you see any man there that had been nailed down to a board and burned?

Then a "real carpet" must be nailed down and pictures hung on the wall.

But the carriage-way had been newly planked, and the planks were not yet nailed down.

Everything that was not nailed down or stuck to the wall was in the air.

They should be previously perfectly freed from dust by beating, and should be nailed down before commencing the above operations.

Outside the winds were screaming about the roof-slabs he had nailed down.


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.


Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.