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See also: Nail and n-ail




  • enPR: nāl, IPA(key): /neɪl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪl

Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English nail, nayl, Old English næġl, from Proto-Germanic *naglaz (compare Saterland Frisian Nail (nail), 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), но́готь (nógotʹ, nail), Ancient Greek ὄνυξ (ónux), 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. The claw of a bird or other animal.
  5. 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.
    • 1879, R[ichard] J[efferies], chapter II, in The Amateur Poacher, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., [], OCLC 752825175, page 071:
      Orion hit a rabbit once; but though sore wounded it got to the bury, and, struggling in, the arrow caught the side of the hole and was drawn out. Indeed, a nail filed sharp is not of much avail as an arrowhead; you must have it barbed, and that was a little beyond our skill.
  6. A round pedestal on which merchants once carried out their business, such as the four nails outside The Exchange, Bristol.
  7. 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 termsEdit

See alsoEdit

Etymology 2Edit

From Middle English naylen, 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”, in BBC Sport[1]:
      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, vulgar, 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?)
  10. (transitive) To nail down: to make certain, or confirm.

See alsoEdit


Middle EnglishEdit



  1. Alternative form of nayl





  1. Nasal mutation of dail.


Welsh mutation
radical soft nasal aspirate
dail ddail nail unchanged
Note: Some of these forms may be hypothetical. Not every
possible mutated form of every word actually occurs.