Green’s Dictionary of Slang

nail v.

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

1. [mid-18C+] to steal; to rob.

2. [mid-18C+] to apprehend and arrest.

3. [mid-18C+] (orig. UK Und.) to get hold of, to secure; lit. and fig.

4. [mid-18C+] to catch someone out, to take advantage of, to get the better of, to cheat.

5. [late 18C+] to punch, to hit hard or squarely; thus nailing, a beating.

6. [late 18C+] to shoot someone, to kill someone (occas. an animal or bird).

7. [late 19C+] to corner or defeat, esp. an opponent.

8. [late 19C+] (US) to seduce, to secure someone’s affections, to have sexual intercourse with.

9. [20C+] (US) to identify, to recognize.

10. [1910s+] to put an end to.

11. [1910s+] to approach, to address.

12. [1960s+] to charge with a debt.

13. [1960s+] (US) to reprimand.

14. [1970s+] to do something well, to master something, to deal with successfully.

15. [1980s+] to link someone with a person or thing.

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

In derivatives

nailed (adj.)

[1950s] (US campus) emotionally disturbed.

In phrases

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

[late 19C–1960s] (US tramp) to steal a ride on a moving train.

nail a strike (v.) [strike n. (2)]

[late 19C–1900s] (UK Und.) to steal a watch.

nailed on (adj.)

[2010s] under the influence of a drug.

nailed up (adj.)

[mid-19C] (US) drunk.

nail ’em and jail ’em (n.)

[1970s+] (US black) the police.

nailing good (adj.)

[mid-19C–1910s] exceptional.

nail jell-o to a tree (v.) [SAmE jelly product, Jell-O]

[1980s+] (US campus) to do the impossible.

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)) [late 19C+] (orig. US)

1. to punish severely.

2. to beat up comprehensively, to kill.

nail someone to the cross (v.) (also nail someone to the barn door)

[late 19C+] (orig. US) to punish, to defeat in a decisive act, to castigate.

nail two wames together (v.) [Scot. wame, the belly]

[18C–19C] to have sexual intercourse.