— nailless , adj. — naillike , adj.
/nayl/ , n.
1. a slender, typically rod-shaped rigid piece of metal, usually in any of numerous standard lengths from a fraction of an inch to several inches and having one end pointed and the other enlarged and flattened, for hammering into or through wood, other building materials, etc., as used in building, in fastening, or in holding separate pieces together.
2. a thin, horny plate, consisting of modified epidermis, growing on the upper side of the end of a finger or toe.
3. a former measure of length for cloth, equal to 2 1 / 4 in. (6.4 cm).
4. hit the nail on the head , to say or do exactly the right thing; be accurate or correct: Your analysis really hit the nail on the head.
5. on the nail , Informal.
a. of present interest; under discussion.
b. without delay; on the spot; at once: He was offered a job on the nail.
6. nail in someone's or something's coffin , something that hastens the demise or failure of a person or thing: Every moment's delay is another nail in his coffin.
7. to fasten with a nail or nails: to nail the cover on a box.
8. to enclose or confine (something) by nailing (often fol. by up ): to nail up oranges in a crate.
9. to make fast or keep firmly in one place or position: Surprise nailed him to the spot.
10. to accomplish perfectly: the only gymnast to nail the dismount.
a. to secure by prompt action; catch or seize: The police nailed him with the goods.
b. to catch (a person) in some difficulty, lie, etc.
c. to detect and expose (a lie, scandal, etc.).
12. Slang. to hit (a person): He nailed him on the chin with an uppercut in the first round.
13. to focus intently on an object or subject: She kept her eyes nailed on the suspicious customer.
14. Obs. to stud with or as if with nails.
15. nail down , to make final; settle once and for all: Signing the contract will nail down our agreement.
[bef. 900; (n.) ME nail ( l ), nayl ( l ), OE naegl, c. OFris neil, OS, OHG nagal, D nagel, G Nagel, ON nagl fingernail, all naglaz; akin as deriv. to Lith nãgas, nagà hoof, OPruss nage foot, OCS noga leg, foot (Serbo-Croatian nòga, Czech noha, Russ nogá; prob. orig. jocular reference to the foot as a hoof), OCS noguti, Tocharian A maku, B mekwa fingernail, claw, all H o nog w h-;
further akin to OIr ingen, Welsh ewin, Breton ivin ng w hina, L unguis H o ng w hi-; Gk ónyx, s. onych-, Armenian elungn H o nog w h-; (v.) ME nail ( l )( e ), nayl ( l ) e ( n ), OE naeglian, c. OS neglian, OHG negilen, ON negla nagl-jana n ; cf. Goth ganagljan ]
Syn. 8. fix, secure, pin, fasten.