nail Meaning, Definition & Usage

  1. noun horny plate covering and protecting part of the dorsal surface of the digits
  2. noun a thin pointed piece of metal that is hammered into materials as a fastener
  3. noun a former unit of length for cloth equal to 1/16 of a yard
  4. verb attach something somewhere by means of nails
    • nail the board onto the wall
  5. verb take into custody
    nab; cop; pick up; apprehend; arrest; collar.
    • the police nabbed the suspected criminals
  6. verb hit hard
    smash; blast; boom.
    • He smashed a 3-run homer
  7. verb succeed in obtaining a position
    nail down; peg.
    • He nailed down a spot at Harvard
  8. verb succeed at easily
    sweep through; ace; sail through; pass with flying colors; breeze through.
    • She sailed through her exams
    • You will pass with flying colors
    • She nailed her astrophysics course
  9. verb locate exactly
    • can you pinpoint the position of the enemy?
    • The chemists could not nail the identity of the chromosome
  10. verb complete a pass


Nail noun
AS. nægel, akin to D. nagel, OS OHG. nagal, G. nagel, Icel. nagl, nail (in sense 1), nagli nail (in sense 3), Sw. nagel nail (in senses 1 and 3), Dan. nagle, Goth. ganagljan to nail, Lith. nagas nail (in sense 1), Russ. nogote, L. unguis, Gr. , Skr. nakha.
  1. (Anat.) the horny scale of plate of epidermis at the end of the fingers and toes of man and many apes.
    His nayles like a briddes claws were. Chaucer.
    ✍ The nails are strictly homologous with hoofs and claws. When compressed, curved, and pointed, they are called talons or claws, and the animal bearing them is said to be unguiculate; when they incase the extremities of the digits they are called hoofs, and the animal is ungulate.
  2. (Zoöl.) (a) The basal thickened portion of the anterior wings of certain hemiptera. (b) The terminal horny plate on the beak of ducks, and other allied birds.
  3. A slender, pointed piece of metal, usually with a head, used for fastening pieces of wood or other material together, by being driven into or through them. ✍ The different sorts of nails are named either from the use to which they are applied, from their shape, from their size, or from some other characteristic, as shingle, floor, ship-carpenters', and horseshoe nails, roseheads, diamonds, fourpenny, tenpenny (see Penny), chiselpointed, cut, wrought, or wire nails, etc.
  4. A measure of length, being two inches and a quarter, or the sixteenth of a yard.
Nail transitive verb
AS. næglian. See Nail, n.
imperfect & past participle Nailed ; present participle & verbal noun Nailing
  1. To fasten with a nail or nails; to close up or secure by means of nails; as, to nail boards to the beams.
    He is now dead, and nailed in his chest. Chaucer.
  2. To stud or boss with nails, or as with nails.
    The rivets of your arms were nailed with gold. Dryden.
  3. To fasten, as with a nail; to bind or hold, as to a bargain or to acquiescence in an argument or assertion; hence, to catch; to trap.
    When they came to talk of places in town, you saw at once how I nailed them. Goldsmith.
  4. To spike, as a cannon. Obs. Crabb.

Webster 1913