hangnail

noun
hang·​nail | \ˈhaŋ-ˌnāl \

Definition of hangnail 

: a bit of skin hanging loose at the side or root of a fingernail

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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

Rub cuticle oil wherever the skin meets the nail, then use a nail pusher to push back the skin around the nail to get rid of the dead skin that can morph into a hangnail. Donna Bulseco, WSJ, "The He-Manicure: A Guide to CEO-Worthy Nails," 2 May 2018 Next to the headphone jack, the microUSB port is hidden beneath a push-to-open plastic slot that’s just begging to get ripped off like a hangnail. Christina Bonnington, WIRED, "Review: Nokia Lumia 800," 29 Nov. 2011

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hangnail.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of hangnail

1678, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for hangnail

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

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Statistics for hangnail

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Time Traveler for hangnail

The first known use of hangnail was in 1678

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More Definitions for hangnail

hangnail

noun

English Language Learners Definition of hangnail

: a small piece of skin hanging loose at the side or bottom of a fingernail

hangnail

noun
hang·​nail | \ˈhaŋ-ˌnāl \

Kids Definition of hangnail

: a bit of skin hanging loose at the side or base of a fingernail

hangnail

noun
hang·​nail | \ˈhaŋ-ˌnāl \

Medical Definition of hangnail 

: a bit of skin hanging loose at the side or root of a fingernail

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More from Merriam-Webster on hangnail

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with hangnail

Spanish Central: Translation of hangnail

Nglish: Translation of hangnail for Spanish Speakers

Comments on hangnail

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