hang·​nail | \ ˈhaŋ-ˌnāl How to pronounce hangnail (audio) \

Definition of hangnail

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

Keep scrolling for more

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 For the one who can’t be bothered with a nail salon: A manicure kit Everyone, everyone should have a manicure kit to turn to when a hangnail appears or a brow hair grows out of place. Jessica Kasparian, USA TODAY, "20 amazing gifts for beauty, makeup, and skincare lovers," 22 Oct. 2019 Instead, at a minimum, any player with a hangnail or blister on his thumb is slapped with the questionable tag. Bill Enright, SI.com, "Week 1 Fantasy Football Injury Report," 4 Sep. 2019 But the truth is that the MCU has always had hangnails, and its world-building has never made much sense. Noah Berlatsky, The Verge, "Spider-Man: Far From Home is saving the MCU by ignoring its continuity," 8 July 2019 Daily wear and tear lead to hangnails and snags, and polish and gel changes can weaken your tips over time. Emily Rekstis, Glamour, "10 Things You Can Do Now to Get Stronger, Healthier Nails ASAP," 20 Apr. 2019 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about hangnail

Time Traveler for hangnail

Time Traveler

The first known use of hangnail was in 1678

See more words from the same year

Statistics for hangnail

Cite this Entry

“Hangnail.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hangnail. Accessed 20 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for hangnail


How to pronounce hangnail (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of hangnail

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


hang·​nail | \ ˈhaŋ-ˌnāl How to pronounce hangnail (audio) \

Kids Definition of hangnail

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


hang·​nail | \ ˈhaŋ-ˌnāl How to pronounce hangnail (audio) \

Medical Definition of hangnail

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

What made you want to look up hangnail? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!