Green’s Dictionary of Slang

nail v.

also nail down
[the image in all is of putting a nail through, or nailing down]

1. to steal; to rob.

[UK]Proc. Old Bailey 11 Oct. 228/1: I have nail’d a Watch, and I shall make my self for ever, if I can find any Body that I can trust to dispose of it for me.
[UK]Life and Character of Moll King 12: My Blos has nailed me of mine [handkerchief]; but I shall catch her at Maddox’s Gin-Ken.
[UK]G. Stevens ‘A Cant Song’ Muses Delight 177: As I derick’d along to doss on my kin / Young Molly the fro-file I touted, / She’d nail’d a rum codger of tilter and nab, / But in filing his tatler was routed.
[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 253: nail: to nail a person, is to [...] rob, or steal; as, I nail’d him for (or of) his reader, I robbed him of his pocket-book; I nail’d the swell’s montra in the push, I picked the gentleman’s pocket of his watch in the crowd, &c. A person of an over-reaching, imposing disposition, is called a nail, a dead nail, a nailing rascal, a rank needle, or a needle pointer.
[UK]Lytton Pelham III 283: In less than three months he would engage to make me as complete a ruffler as ever nailed a swell.
[UK]Crim.-Con. Gaz. 14 Dec. 303/1: Have you forgotten the rib of beef you nailed from the joint when you was journeyman.
[UK]Dickens ‘Slang’ Household Words 24 Sept. 75/2: To steal is to prig, to pinch, to collar, to nail, to grab, to nab.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor II 51/2: At last he was ‘bowl’d out’ in the very act of ‘nailing a yack’ (stealing a watch).
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 12 Oct. n.p.: Annie [...] was ‘laying’ for a chance to ‘nail’ a bundle of goods.
[UK]J. Greenwood In Strange Company 59: One little boy told me [...] that he had ‘done three months at Maidstone’ for ‘nailin’ two glasses of sweetstuff out of a shop’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 18 Apr. 9/3: Nothing is safe from them. They have ’boned’ my Claude Melnotte sword, my Major General’s ditto, ’nailed’ my table cutlery, broken into our empty treasury chest, and even appropriated my last stick of Wigzell’s grease paint. All’s fish that comes to their net.
[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 208: ‘’Frisco Kate,’ I whispered to her. ‘Well, well! No wonder you nailed my wallet.’.
[US]G. Bronson-Howard Enemy to Society 294: They had th’ statements he’d nailed [...], they’d publish th’ whole story in th’ papers less’n they let Steve take a walk and let that be th’ blow-off!
[US]J. Callahan Man’s Grim Justice 26: Benny ‘nailed two pokes’ (pocket books).
[US]W. Motley Knock on Any Door 193: As they passed the Shamrock a man came out carrying a violin case. ‘Shall we nail him?’ Lucky asked.
[US]Baker et al. CUSS.
[US]E. Little Another Day in Paradise 33: We hit him Saturday night, get two days’ worth of receipts. The first is Thursday. We nail him Saturday.

2. to apprehend and arrest.

[[UK]Lyly Mother Bombie I i: I shall goe for siluer though, when you shall be nailed vp for slips].
[UK]Proc. Old Bailey 19 Apr. 104/1: Prisoner. He told me himself, that Peter Buck was nail’d out of his Company; nail'd, is being taken up.
[UK] ‘The Bowman Prigg’s Farewell’ in Wardroper (1995) 283: But pray don’t you bring it yourself: / Harmans are at the Old Bailey. / I’d rather you would send it behalf, / For if they tout you they’ll nail you.
[UK] Song No. 25 Papers of Francis Place (1819) n.p.: If they twig you, they’ll nail you.
[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc. 123: The man is nailed who is laid hands upon.
[UK]M. Scott Tom Cringle’s Log (1834) 153: This is my compact – if he nails you, you will require a friend at court, and I will stand that friend.
[UK]Comic Almanack Feb. 352: [illus.] Vhy you would have wery soon a’pledged that ’ere handkerchief if ve had’nt a nailed you.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 10 Oct. 3/1: He ‘nailed’ her at once and lodged her in durance vile.
Tasmanian Colonist 19 Sept. 2/4: [W]itness said to O’Brien, ‘You did not take the note, but I know who did, and I will nail him’.
[UK]A. Mayhew Paved with Gold 283: If he had had anybody to help him, he would have nailed the varmints as sure as eggs was eggs.
[US]Matsell Vocabulum 32: ‘This place is all on fire; I must pad like a bull or the cops will nail me,’ every body is after me in this place; I must run like a locomotive or the officers will arrest me.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 84/1: She ‘maxed’ along with every one she knew, and before night she was again ‘nailed’ for being drunk.
[UK]Five Years’ Penal Servitude 270: He listened to the tempter, ‘filched the ticker,’ and was nailed almost immediately.
[US]Trumble ‘On the Trail’ Sl. Dict. (1890) 41: I must amputate like a go-away, ot those frogs will nail me.
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ Robbery Under Arms (1922) 182: I’ll give you and Bell a pair [of ear-rings] each [...] when we sell the horses, unless we’re nailed at the Turon.
[UK]H. Fludyer Letters 117: Two chaps got nailed for cribbing yesterday.
[US]W. Norr Stories of Chinatown 40: That sucker had actually followed us [...] with the flatty and nailed Fritz, who worked the thing.
[UK]B. Pain De Omnibus 39: But ’ow the coppers ’adn’t niled ’im was whort licked ’im.
[US]H. Hapgood Autobiog. of a Thief 49: But I did it, and was nailed dead to rights by a ‘cop’.
[US]J. Lait ‘Canada Kid’ Beef, Iron and Wine (1917) 153: A plain-clothes dick nails me wit’ my fingers in a rube’s overcoat.
[US]J. Lait ‘Charlie the Wolf’ Beef, Iron and Wine (1917) 26: Watch that grave. That’s where you’ll nail the Wolf. [Ibid.] 55: The night this here kid was nailed it was ten below zero.
[UK]C.G. Gordon Crooks of the Und. 133: The penalty for being ‘nailed’ (arrested) is a mere flea-bite to that of the heavy grafter.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Goldfish’ Red Wind (1946) 148: He got to B.C. before he was nailed.
[UK]J. Curtis They Drive by Night 164: One time a policeman had spoken out of turn to her. Reckoned he was going to nail her or something for soliciting.
[US]A. Hynd We Are the Public Enemies 141: She and Winona Burdette were nailed and sent up for five years.
[US]‘William Lee’ Junkie (1966) 42: One night, Irish got nailed in the subway for jostling.
[US]H.S. Thompson Hell’s Angels (1967) 16: Pretty soon they’ll nail me for one of those goddamn things.
[US]G.V. Higgins Digger’s Game (1981) 28: He got close to seventy-five before they nailed him.
[US]N. Pileggi Wiseguy (2001) 190: He could be guaranteed a walk or probation, especially if he helped McDonald nail the robbers.
[US]C. Stroud Close Pursuit (1988) 204: Right now, you’ve got him nailed for robbery second.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 70: Heard you booked Rooski out of the Troll’s just before the cops nailed him.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 2 July 1: They’re trying to nail him for a timeshare fraud.
[US]G.V. Higgins At End of Day (2001) 92: If we don’t get rid of him then someday some cop’ll nail him.
[US]Week (US) 15 June 4: His daughter Sarah got nailed for alcohol possession at age 16.
[Aus]P. Temple Truth 80: This is drugs, it’s like spit, no natural end. You never nail anyone who matters, never have the final day in court.
[US]Codella and Bennett Alphaville (2011) 50: The stickups we could never nail him for go from bold to ridiculous.
[Aus]D. Whish-Wilson Old Scores [ebook] ‘Take the money, whatever, but the bloke who’s offering is being watched. You’ll get nailed. Understood?’.

3. (orig. UK Und.) to get hold of, to secure; lit. and fig.

[UK]Foote The Minor 73: Some bidders are shy, and only advance with a nod; but I nail them.
[UK]G. Colman Spleen I i: I’ll stay if I can nail you down for two minutes to listen to it.
[UK]Burns Death and Dr. Hornbook in Works (1842) 14: Ev’n Ministers, they ha’e been kenn’d In holy rapture / A rousing whid at times to vend, An’ nail ’t wi’ Scripture.
H. Lemoine ‘Education’ in Attic Misc. 116: To nail the ticker, or to mill the cly.
[UK]‘When First From Kilkenny’ Jovial Songster 71: A rude press-gang assail’d me, / And tho’ I tipp’d them leg bail, my jewel, soon nail’d me.
[UK]J. Mackcoull Abuses of Justice 32: Well, damn your eyes, I have nailed you now.
[UK]T. Creevey letter in Gore Creevey Papers (1948) 233: Brougham has been bidding £15,000 for two farms in Westmorland. The seller has taken time to consider, and, if he does not nail him, he must have found one as insane as himself.
[UK] ‘The Spectre of Tappington’ Bentley’s Misc. Feb. 203: Mrs. Ogleton had already nailed the cab.
[UK]Swell’s Night Guide 66: Ven I pitches, and they count me the best flag pitcher of all the shallows; I never gets copped by the Bobbies [...] but yet I nails the browns.
[US]Melville Moby Dick (1907) 377: Ha, ha! old Ahab! the White Whale; he’ll nail ye!
[UK]T. Taylor Ticket-Of-Leave Man Act IV: The five thousand shiners will be nailed in the turning of a jemmy.
[UK]Bradford Obs. 6 Dec. 6/6: A debate ensued as to what course we should take to ‘nail’ a breakfast out of the workhouse authorities.
[UK] ‘’Arry on Song & Sentiment’ Punch 14 Nov. 229/1: The Music ’All song paints a picter of wot we should all like to be; / And that’s where it nails us, dear Charlie.
[US]Ade Forty Modern Fables 27: He had the Job nailed down on four Sides and then clinched underneath.
[Aus]J. Furphy Such is Life 44: Collar the horse quick! [...] Nail him now, or you’ll never ketch him.
[UK]D. Lowrie My Life in Prison 82: There ain’t much dope here now, an’ it’s curtains t’ get nailed with it.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘Digger Smith’ in Chisholm (1951) 94: Now ‘arf uv me’s back ‘ome, an’ ‘arf they nailed.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 362: Must nail that ad of Keyes’s.
[US] ‘Memories’ in Irwin Amer. Tramp and Und. Sl. 251: Yes, many’s the time I’ve waited, / [...] To nail some redball rattler.
[US]N. Davis Rendezvous with Fear 23: Have they nailed that gun-crazy nut.
[US]‘Blackie’ Audett Rap Sheet 59: With that, the court attendants nailed him.
[US]M. Spillane Return of the Hood 9: The brothers Stipetto would be only too happy to help the fuzz nail my hide.
[US]T. Southern Blue Movie (1974) 47: Angela Sterling [...] nailing, as she did, a cool one and a quarter big ones per pic, plus ten per cent of the boxoroonie.
[UK]F. Taylor Auf Wiedersehen Pet Two 270: Hey, you haven’t nailed her yet, kid.
[US](con. 1986) G. Pelecanos Sweet Forever 36: Donna Morgan nailed Karras behind his desk after class one afternoon.
[UK]Eve. Standard 28 May 52: They’ve already ready nailed success.
[US]T. Dorsey Hurricane Punch 44: You’ll need my street sense if you want to nail this collar.
[US]J. Stahl Happy Mutant Baby Pills 103: Given that any promise a junkie makes has a shelf life shorter than a space heater in a bathtub, I wasn’t banking on Harold really nailing me a CSI gig.
[US]Esquire 1 Sept. [Internet] He was on a sales call about to land a cushty deal and nail a wad of commish.

4. to catch someone out, to take advantage of, to get the better of, to cheat.

[UK]Foote Patron in Works (1799) I 334: I’ll nail him, I warrant.
[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 253: nail: to nail a person, is to over-reach, or take advantage of him in the course of trade or traffic.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]R. Nicholson Cockney Adventures 6 Jan. 75: ‘Vell,’ says he, ‘if I’ve been nailed, I’ll vallop the coves as did it, if you’ll go along vith me.’.
[UK]Dickens Martin Chuzzlewit (1995) 682: You have nailed him. You’ll get a fortune by him.
[UK]B. Hemyng Eton School Days 203: I wonder if he will get nailed?
[UK]J. Greenwood Dick Temple III 142: I felt sure I should nail you, first or last.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 19 Sept. 6/3: [Victor Hugo] had been ‘nailed’ by one Renduel, the publisher of the first-named novel, into signing an agreement to let him have for publication his two next novels on some low terms.
[UK]Birmingham Dly Post 31 Mar. 3/5: He prided himself on being a match for the most seasoned rogue, and it was generally admitted that he had never been ‘nailed’ (deceived) but once.
[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 339: [He] nailed me for half the bank’s roll and got me fired.
[US]Bourbon News (Paris, KY) 7 Dec. 7/2: ‘You want to cut [opium] out. [...] It’ll nail you. It’s a game you can’t beat.
[UK]J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 202/1: Psychological moment (Soc. and Literary, 1894 on). Opportunity. Nick of time. Became very popular in 1896. I seized the p. m., and nailed him for a tenner.
[US]D. Hammett Red Harvest (1965) 26: It would have nailed Papa Elihu tighter than anyone else.
[US]R. Price Breaks 44: An acting student [...] got nailed calling his answering service.
[US]C. Hiaasen Nature Girl 80: He’d done his job, nailing the knucklehead in the act.
[UK]in K. Richards Life 352: Oh boy, we nailed a kingfish and his sidekick now, buddy!

5. to punch, to hit hard or squarely; thus nailing, a beating.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Westmorland Gaz. 7 May 5/5: Billy [...] was determined to be revenged for the nailing which they had given him.
[UK]C. Reade It Is Never Too Late to Mend II 284: Tom nailed the other and I floored mine Hurrah!
[US]C. M’Govern Sarjint Larry an’ Frinds 23: Oi nailed him one solar plexus with me closed fist right betwen de eyes.
[US]O.O. McIntyre New York Day by Day 2 Aug. [synd. col.] And just then Dudley nailed him on the konk with a bottle of ink.
[US]D. Hammett ‘Corkscrew’ Story Omnibus (1966) 218: He nailed me once more before the fight ended.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Romance in the Roaring Forties’ Runyon on Broadway (1954) 32: Dave nails him with a big right hand on the chin.
[US]B. Schulberg Harder They Fall (1971) 8: Jackson [...] nails old Frank with a right.
[Aus]D. Stivens Jimmy Brockett 65: Maxie was as hard to hit as first prize in the art union. Bit flash with it all and the mob would be keen to see Snowy nail him.
[US](con. 1920s) J. Thompson South of Heaven (1994) 173: He nailed me like di wa didy.
‘Troy Conway’ Cunning Linguist (1973) 19: I’d nailed him good.
[UK]P. Theroux Family Arsenal 33: ‘I’ll nail you, straight I will.’ ‘You couldn’t nail a daisy.’.
[US]G.A. Fine With the Boys 169: Nail, v.t. Hit (as in ‘nailing’ a car by throwing an egg at it).
[US]F.X. Toole Rope Burns 83: She nailed Billy repeatedly, but Billy stayed up and continued to head-butt.
[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 156: He nailed me in the stomach and I couldn’t breathe.

6. to shoot someone, to kill someone (occas. an animal or bird).

[UK]Bridges Burlesque Homer (3rd edn) 433: Blast my old slippers but I’ll nail ye!
[UK]Burns Death and Dr. Hornbook in Works (1842) n.p.: I’ll nail the self-conceited sot As dead’s a herring [F&H].
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 21 July 3/2: [He] did threaten to astound, astonish, bunt, batter, crush, croak, damage, destroy, eat, embowel, fake,flog, grass, gall, harass, hammer, injure, im-pumge, jam, job, kill, knock-out, larrup, lick, mummyfy, murder, nail, nauseate, unify, obliterate, pound, punish, quiet, quench, rush, roast, settle, splfllicate, tear-to-atoms, terrify, ’ug, ’umbug, velt, vip, wiolute, wanquish, xasperate, xtinguish, and yoke-up the Zany.
[UK]H. Nisbet Bushranger’s Sweetheart 294: I nailed two of the skunks.
[US]W.J. Kountz Billy Baxter’s Letters 5: I think if I’d had three barrels on that gun I would have nailed a duck, a duck and a half, or two ducks, as I was just getting good.
[US]C.E. Mulford Bar-20 xi: As he reloaded his Colts a bullet passed through his shirt sleeve and he promptly nailed the marksman.
[US]D. Hammett ‘Nightmare Town’ Nightmare Town (2001) 34: Then we nailed Mr. Kamp, and changed his name on the records.
[US]E. Hemingway letter c.10 Sept. in Baker Sel. Letters (1981) 328: I nailed him dead.
[US]D. Runyon Runyon à la Carte 72: Even if he happens to nail me, O’Toole will [...] nab Buttsy on the spot with his gun on him.
[US]H. Ellison Web of the City (1983) 48: They didn’t care who got nailed, so long as sparks flew.
[US] letter in Edelman Dear America (1985) 23 Mar. 171: Dear Mom & Pop: Guess what! They nailed me yesterday [...] but there’s nothing to worry about. I got scratched by a piece of shrapnel.
[US]E. Bunker Animal Factory 67: Bet they nail Shadow.
[UK]P. Theroux London Embassy 191: And frankly [...] I’d love to nail him.
[US]L. Heinemann Paco’s Story (1987) 81: They nail him with six or seven solid hits.
[Aus]P. Temple Bad Debts (2012) [ebook] Vin’s idea was that Danny might go nuts and nail Scullin for him.
[US]C. Cook Robbers (2001) 321: Nailed her while she watched, with this gun right here.
[US]C. Stella Jimmy Bench-Press 13: I fired back and nailed him.
[US]C. Stella Rough Riders 253: He nailed Singleton [...] with a rifle.

7. to corner or defeat, esp. an opponent.

[UK] ‘Rangy Lil’ in Bold (1979) 192: Then — in the middle of her stroke — / He turned and nailed her as she broke!
[US]D. Runyon ‘That Ever-Loving Wife of Hymie’s’ Runyon on Broadway (1954) 604: Halfway down the stretch the outside horse nails him.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Social Error’ Runyon on Broadway (1954) 459: Dave the Dude [...] jumps across the room and nails Basil. ‘Why,’ Dave says to Basil, ‘you are nothing but a rascal.’.
[UK]‘Charles Raven’ Und. Nights 146: All he was concerned about was nailing Victor. He’d show the little bastard how to climb, rain or no rain.
[US]C. Hiaasen Double Whammy (1990) 63: My brother wants to nail Dickie Lockhart.
[UK]Observer Mag. 5 Dec. 21: He’s nailed his tapeworm nightmares with drugs – prescription drugs.
[UK]Guardian 8 Jan. 7: The trial was a wonderful chance to nail the myth once and for all that the Holocaust did not happen.

8. (US) to seduce, to secure someone’s affections, to have sexual intercourse with.

[[UK] Cleland Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1985) 64: I soon felt it [i.e. his belly] joining close to mine, when he had drove the nail up to the head. [Ibid.] 116: He had now fix’d, nail’d, this tender creature with his home driven wedge].
[[UK] ‘Wha the Deil can Hinder the Wind to Blaw?’ Burns Merry Muses of Caledonia (1965) 181: She heav’d to; and he strak fraem, / As he wad nail’d the carlin thro’].
[UK] ‘’Arry in ’Arrygate’ (Second Letter) in Punch 15 Oct. 169/3: ’Arrygate girls cop the buscuit for beauty / [...] / I’d nail ’em, in time, I’ve no doubt, when I once got the ’ang of their style.
[US]H. Blossom Checkers 114: I wonder if he’s got her ‘nailed’; she does n’t act much like it to me.
[US]Ade Girl Proposition 129: He found a Girl who had a Friend but he cut a wide Circle around Friend and nailed Girl.
[US] in E. Cray Erotic Muse (1992) 247: A lady came in for some hardware one day. / ‘What will you have?’ said I. / ‘Nails,’ she said, and nail her I did.
[US]T. Southern Blue Movie (1974) 138: Old C.D. himself [...] decided, after seeing the rushes, to dip in for a taste, little suspecting that by now Junior was nailing her repeatedly.
[US]A. Maupin Tales of the City (1984) 245: The one who nailed your mother, dingbat!
[UK]H.B. Gilmour Pretty in Pink 120: Why don’t you just nail her and get it over with?
M.E. Dassad ‘Chickenhawk’ at [Internet] It was always this way with the slutty little brats I picked up, they swore they hated it, at the same time they were creaming all over themselves, as they remembered being nailed.
[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 162: I’ll bet he’s nailed a couple dozen kids from his classes.
[UK](con. 1980s) I. Welsh Skagboys 67: Been fuckin well nailin it aw weekend. Fill hoose, the loat.

9. (US) to identify, to recognize.

[[UK]Dekker Lanthorne and Candle-Light Ch. 2: If this Bauling fellow therefore haue not his mouth stopd, the light Angels that are Coynd Below, wil neuer be able to passee as they haue done, but be nayld up for Counterfets].
[US]C.L. Cullen More Ex-Tank Tales 39: I’d [...] try to dope it out where I’d stacked up against him before but [...] I couldn’t nail him.
[Aus]E. Dyson Missing Link [Internet] Ch. xiii: Well, yiv gotter look out, ol’ man. If she nails yer, yer a gone link, that’s er cert.
[UK]K. Orvis Damned and Destroyed 185: The house dick nailed the room number, then waltzed down and checked the register.
[UK]J. McClure Spike Island (1981) 503: We nailed it [i.e a crime] down to the three older ones in the end.
[US]E. Bunker Mr Blue 252: I’ll bet you can nail him through her.
[US](con. 1964–8) J. Ellroy Cold Six Thousand 129: The man passed an envelope [...] Wayne nailed a view. Wayne nailed an ID.
[SA]IOL Cape News 30 Oct. [Internet] New ‘spy cars’ nail dodgy drivers.

10. to put an end to.

[US]R. Lardner ‘Harmony’ Coll. Short Stories (1941) 187: But Ryan finally nailed that. He said that when he ordered mornin’ practice he meant baseball and not no minstrel show.
[UK]C. Brookmyre Be My Enemy 144: Jeez, you only had to get an eyeful of Theresa Graham of a Monday morning to nail that one [i.e. a mistaken theory].

11. to approach, to address.

[US]D. Runyon ‘The Defence of Strikerville’ From First To Last (1954) 12: There’s a plug sitting behind the desk [...] and I nails him.
[US]J. London Valley of the Moon (1914) 54: He wades right in for a showdown, an’ nails Billy outside, before everybody, an’ reads the riot act.
[US]Ade Hand-made Fables 159: Although he tried to duck into the Drug Store, the Trouble-Maker nailed him.
[UK]‘P.B. Yuill’ Hazell and the Three-card Trick (1977) 144: I should have nailed her back there for my money.
[UK]P. Theroux London Embassy 79: Now he’s yanked my file and sent you to nail me down.
[Can](con. 1920s) O.D. Brooks Legs 158: While you had your head back guzzling, he’d nail ya with a sneak punch in the chops.
[UK]K. Sampson Powder 317: Guy, still elated by the way he and Tony Wolfe had crushed MarsChannel into submission, decided to nail his father while he was still on a high.

12. to charge with a debt.

[US]G.V. Higgins Digger’s Game (1981) 62: Coughlin nailed me fourteen hundred dollars for Ma’s funeral.

13. (US) to reprimand.

[US]H.S. Thompson Hell’s Angels (1967) 43: The purpose of this harangue is not to nail any one newspaper or magazine.
[US]G.V. Higgins Rat on Fire (1982) 151: This is the first time I ever nailed an investigator for booting one, and he came right out and said he booted it.
[US]B. Hamper Rivethead (1992) 207: When Moza nailed Eddie for bangin’ on his bench, it was too much to take.

14. to do something well, to master something, to deal with successfully.

[UK]F. Norman Too Many Crooks Spoil the Caper 120: A job well done [...] I’d got my end nailed down.
[US]P. Munro Sl. U.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 25 June 11: What few scraps of comedy come his way, he nails very smartly.
[US]G. Pelecanos Shame the Devil 234: The cops should have nailed this one to begin with.

15. to link someone with a person or thing.

[US]J. Ellroy Brown’s Requiem 247: How did you nail him for the Utopia torch?
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 25: You know you can nail me to that moralistic shitbird William H. Parker.
[US]E. Bunker Mr Blue 289: It’s the computer that nails him.

16. to put out of order, to render ineffective.

[US]E. Bunker No Beast So Fierce 209: Are you sure you can nail the alarm?

In derivatives

nailed (adj.)

(US campus) emotionally disturbed.

[US]W. White ‘Wayne University Sl.’ AS XXX:4 304: nailed, adj. Emotionally disturbed.

In phrases

nail a rattler (v.) [rattler n. (1)]

(US tramp) to steal a ride on a moving train.

Mentor (Mass. State Prison) 16 299: ‘Why don’t you nail a rattler?’ A rattler, we found after much effort on our part to hide our ignorance, was nothing more or less than a freight car.
[US]W. Edge Main Stem 49: Nailing a rattler, whether you choose the gondola or the side door Pullman, calls for a concatenation of skills not acquired in a day.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]Ragen & Finston World’s Toughest Prison 809: nail a rattler – To board a fast train once it has got under way.
[US]P. Oliver Blues fell This Morning 60: There was no room for mistakes; no second chance: the loss of a limb was the least penalty for failing to ‘nail a rattler’ successfully the first time.
nailed on (adj.)

under the influence of a drug.

[UK]K. Sampson Killing Pool 221: He’s been [...] found using [...] They’ll have found Lambert on it — nailed on — and given him his marching orders.
nail ’em and jail ’em (n.)

(US black) the police.

[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 67: Characteristic of the police-related lexicon is an ironic, if sometimes grim, humor that is embodied in names like [...] Uncle Nab, nail ’em and jail ’em.
J. Miller Search & Destroy 131: The motto for this practice was mounted on the office wall of one of California's chief probation officers: ‘Trail ’em, Surveil ’em, Nail ’em, and Jail ’em’.
M. Schukert Blood for Blood [ebook] ‘What I do is nail ’em and jail ’em.’ ‘With no thought as to the repercussions?’ ‘No thought at all’.
nailing good (adj.)


[US]J. Chisholm South Pass 184: It is not essential that she be nailin’ good looking, but she must be cleanly and tidy — a good housewife .
Coursing Calendar for 1878 185: Civility cleared out from Master Ramshay, and, running a nailing good greyhound from first to last, won a nice trial in the easiest of fashions.
Coursing Calendar for 1881 248: Magician again ran a nailing good course.
F. Anstey Travelling Companions 40: I say, old boy, I’d no notion you were such a nailing good chap?
[UK]A. Binstead Gal’s Gossip 42: I’d just got a nailin’ good payin’ appointment to go out here and make a complete [...] report.
[UK]Sporting Times 17 Feb. 5/4: He’s a nailing good sort, and he’s not got much tin.
W.B. Maxwell Vivien 282: There, that’s a nailing good book — Where Life Flows Deep — though it is a novel .
[US]Atlantic Mthly 108 753: ‘Oh, but, ma’am,’ said the young man, ‘she is a nailin’ good Cinderella, you know.’ A nailing good Cinderella, when her great-grandmother played with Betterton and Garrick.
[UK]J. Buchan Mr Standfast (1930) 449: I had a nailing good brigade, and I had got the hang of our new kind of war as well as any fellow from Sandhurst and Camberley.
nail jell-o to a tree (v.) [SAmE jelly product, Jell-O]

(US campus) to do the impossible.

[US]P. Munro Sl. U.
[US]K. Kainulainen ‘University Euphemisms in Calif. Today’ [Internet] I will consider expressions surrounding something bad or discreet as euphemism and other invented expressions as slang. Therefore [...] ‘to nail Jell-o to a tree’ meaning ‘to do the impossible’ [...] would be slang.
L. Patler TrendSmart 208: Texans have it right when they say, ‘Managing change is a lot like trying to nail Jell-O to a tree!’.
T.H. Becker Doing Business in New Latin Amer. 135: Trying to conduct business in those times without engaging in bribery was like trying to nail Jell-O to a tree.
nail someone’s hide to the (barn) door (v.) (also nail someone’s hide to the dunny door, nail someone’s ass (to the wall))(orig. US)

1. to punish severely; note extrapolation in cit. 1952.

Fourth Estate 31 July 35: [headline] Cold Advertising Facts Kill Magazine Space Bugaboo Evidence of Brunswick’s Success Skins Scurvy Critter and Nails Its Hide to the Old Barn Door.
E.L. Sabin Kit Carson Days 606: General Kearny's hide was being nailed to the barn door.
[US]Boys’ Life Aug. 15/3: If you kick over the traces, I’ll skin your hide off and nail it on the barn.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Men, Big World 242: My hide ain’t on the barn door yet, mister. And neither is the Judge’s. I’ll give Dysen the lie to every word he says—and in court, too.
(ref. to 1928)K.T. Jackson Ku Klux Klan 252: When Herbert Hoover won a landslide victory, the Invisible Empire boasted that it had nailed ‘Smith's political hide to the Klan's barn door’.
N. Thornburg Knockover 109: lf this is what I think it is, buddy, we’ll nail your ass to the barn door.
[US]Field & Stream Nov. 52/1: One of these days I’ll nail your rusty hide to the barn door.
[US](con. 1960s) D. Goines Black Gangster (1991) 89: I would try to nail his hide to the door.
P. Tauber Last Best Hope 569: Just when it seemed he’d waded to a safe shore, they’d contrived to nail his young ass to the barn door.
D. Morrell Rambo 165: When I get back to the States, I’ll nail Murdock’s ass to a wall.
C. Logan Lady’s Choice 114: Cal had the impression that his soft-as-silk woman could nail his hide to the barn door.
C. Moil Grizzly Gunther 225: First thing in the morning, we gonna nail his ass to the barn door, all sand papered an’ turpentined.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. 140: nail your hide to the dunny door Threat of a thrashing, eg. ‘If that kid spits one more time on the floor, I’ll nail his hide to the dunny door’.
J. Saxxon Perhaps Heaven I 215: Son, you ever come through my county again, I’ll nail your hide to the barn door.
C.F. David Fire Base X-Ray 21: If we don't find a way out of the shit we're in, those dinks are going to nail our hide to the barn door.

2. to beat up comprehensively, to kill.

[US]L. Heinemann Paco’s Story (1987) 7: Looking to nail any and all of that god-damned giggling slime we came across to the barn door.
[US]P. Cornwell Body of Evidence (1992) 310: Swear to God I’ll pop ’im if I have to, nail his ass.
nail someone to the cross (v.) (also nail someone to the barn door)

(orig. US) to punish, to defeat in a decisive act, to castigate.

[US]H. Garland Eagle’s Heart (2008) 169: He pulled his gun and nailed me to the cross .
[UK]K. Waterhouse Soho 183: I could have the three of you nailed to the cross, you realise that.
[UK]G. Iles Turning Angel 182: That’s not who I’d hire if Shad Johnson was trying to nail me to the barn door.