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


Now they are laying my mother in the coffin; now they are nailing down the lid.

She then secured the house by nailing down the windows, &c., and taking the path across the fields, once more returned to Asselby.

Le Bihan glanced up from the floor where he was nailing down the lid of a box full of cases.

Was it possible that they were nailing down the trap above our heads?

As I started to say, some time ago, Keg proved to be a positive genius in nailing down jobs.

On the other side of the street, on the footpath, a packer in his shirt-sleeves was nailing down a trunk.

She would have been still more surprised to know that his wonderful memory was nailing down every word with machine-like accuracy.

The work had been quickly done and the carpenter was nailing down the lid of the coffin.

The object of the increased thickness at the gunwale is to stiffen the sides and give a better bearing for nailing down the deck.

Some men were putting up beds, while others were hanging window-curtains and nailing down carpets.


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.