hangnail

noun

hang·​nail ˈhaŋ-ˌnāl How to pronounce hangnail (audio)
: a bit of skin hanging loose at the side or root of a fingernail

Did you know?

Hangnail is altered by folk etymology from angnail or agnail, which originally did not correspond to what we now know as “hangnail.” In Old English angnægl meant “corn on the foot,” with the element nægl referring not to a fingernail but rather the nail we drive in with a hammer, with the head of an iron nail being likened to a hard corn. By the 16th century, the association of -nail with the body’s nails led to a new sense, “an inflammation around a finger- or toenail.” The first element, ang- or ag-, which is akin to Old English enge, “painful,” was no longer understandable. Some speakers altered it to hang-, so that the dominant sense of both hangnail and agnail came to be “loose skin at the root of a fingernail.”

Examples of hangnail in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Paul Giamatti is as good as he's ever been (and that's saying something) as an angry hangnail of a classics teacher, stuck over holiday break with an unhappy student (Dominic Sessa, who easily could have been nominated) and the cook (Da'Vine Joy Randolph, who was nominated and will win). Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, 23 Jan. 2024 Rich, lightweight formulas with a fast-absorbing finish will not only reduce hangnails, but result in longer, stronger, healthier nails. India Espy-Jones, Essence, 22 Aug. 2023 Cuticle Buddy, a genius little nail and skin oil, strengthens nails and cuticles, stimulates growth, and prevents breakage and hangnails. Hillary Maglin, Travel + Leisure, 14 Aug. 2023 The builder gel keeps your nails from breaking as easily, which is helpful if growing your nails out past tip length (and not having to deal with hangnails) is your ultimate goal. Sabrina Talbert, Women's Health, 13 July 2023 Rodriguez, 30, has a left index finger pulley rupture, while Faedo, 27, has right middle finger discomfort from a hangnail. Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press, 5 June 2023 What causes hangnails? Daley Quinn, Women's Health, 27 Feb. 2023 The sting of salt in a hangnail. Hazlitt, 14 Dec. 2022 Aesthetic and psychological concerns aside, nail psoriasis can also become physically uncomfortable and even painful to live with—on a whole other level than when a toe hangnail catches on your sheets. Petra Guglielmetti, Glamour, 13 Feb. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'hangnail.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

by folk etymology from agnail inflammation about the nail, from Middle English, corn on the foot or toe, from Old English angnægl, from ang- (akin to enge tight, painful) + nægl nail — more at anger

First Known Use

1678, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of hangnail was in 1678

Dictionary Entries Near hangnail

Cite this Entry

“Hangnail.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hangnail. Accessed 29 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

hangnail

noun
hang·​nail -ˌnāl How to pronounce hangnail (audio)
: a bit of skin hanging loose at the side or base of a fingernail

Medical Definition

hangnail

noun
hang·​nail ˈhaŋ-ˌnāl How to pronounce hangnail (audio)
: a bit of skin hanging loose at the side or root of a fingernail

More from Merriam-Webster on hangnail

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