hangnail

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noun hang·nail \ˈhaŋ-ˌnāl\

Definition of hangnail

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

Recent Examples of hangnail from the Web

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.

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.”

Origin and Etymology of 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


HANGNAIL Defined for English Language Learners

hangnail

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noun

Definition of hangnail for English Language Learners

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


HANGNAIL Defined for Kids

hangnail

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noun hang·nail \ˈhaŋ-ˌnāl\

Definition of hangnail for Students

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

History for hangnail

Hangnail is an alteration of an earlier word angnail (or agnail), which did not at first mean what we now call a hangnail. The Old English ancestor of the word was angnægl, “corn on the foot,” with the second part, nægl, referring not to a toenail but rather to the nail we drive in with a hammer, the head of an iron nail being likened to a hard corn. By the 1500s the association of -nail with the body's nails led to a new sense for angnail, “sore around a fingernail or toenail.” In the next century, ang- was altered to hang-, and the main sense came to be “bit of loose skin at the side or root of a fingernail.”


Medical Dictionary

hangnail

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noun hang·nail \ˈhaŋ-ˌnāl\

Medical Definition of hangnail

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



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