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The phrase means 'Dead beyond doubt'. While the origin of the phrase is still disputed, doornails (circa 1350) are heavily-studded nails used to strengthen exterior passage doors. The expensive homes used them for ornamentation as well. To add strength and prevent theft, the nail was clinched on the inside, making it 'dead', or, unable to be re-used for the same purpose.

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Alessandro Keeling

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โˆ™ 2022-01-16 16:53:44
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Q: What does deader than a doornail mean?
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What is a DOORNAIL as in Deader Than A Doornail?

A doornail (coined c. 1350) is a very large studded nail on the outside of wooden doors, often used to nail on the metal strips which gave the door additional strength. They were also used as an ornamentational device. The more expensive homes had these metal, heavily-studded nails rather than wooden pegs, like the regular folks had. The doornails were 'clinched' on the inside of the door to prevent theft and give additional strength. Once clinched, the nail is 'dead', as in, it cannot be used again for that purpose.


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Deader than a doornail?

The expression is 700 or 800 years old. It obviously refers to making doors with the use of nails. A long nail was driven through the joint and the protruding point 'turned over' or 'clinched' so that it could not be removed. Under these circumstances the nail was considered 'dead' - hence the expression


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Example sentence - The bug was dead as a doornail after he stepped on it.


What does 'Deader than a doornail' mean?

The phrase means 'Dead beyond doubt'. While the origin of the phrase is still disputed, doornails (circa 1350) are heavily-studded nails used to strengthen exterior passage doors. The expensive homes used them for ornamentation as well. To add strength and prevent theft, the nail was clinched on the inside, making it 'dead', or, unable to be re-used for the same purpose.

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