The phrase hit the nail on the head means to do or say something that is exactly right.
Example: Bill was asked by his wife if he noticed anything different about the living room. He looked around for a few seconds while he thought about it and then he noticed that one of the reclining chairs was missing. So his wife told him: “Yep, you hit the nail on the head. I moved one of the chairs into our room while you were at work.”
In other words, Bill was correct in what he said.
Synonyms: nailed it, right on the button, bull’s eye, correct, right
Origin Of ‘Hit The Nail On The Head’
It is hard to say where the phrase hit the nail on the head comes from. After all, people have been hitting nails with hammers for a long, long time—thousands of years even. This phrase sounds like something a carpenter would come up with since, you know, they often work with hammers and nails. So perhaps the saying has roots in carpentry. However, there’s no real way to be sure on that.
Anyways, we do have an idea on how old this idiom is. According to The Phrase Finder, this expression was used in a book called The Cosmographical Glasses by William Cunningham, in the year 1559:
“You hit the naile on the head (as the saying is).”
This means the phrase is at least 460 years old. Not too shabby!
The Parts of a Nail
Nails have been around for a long time. Today, they come in various sizes and types that are best suited for different purposes. For example, roofing nails, if you couldn’t guess by the name, are used for work that’s done on the roof. You know, like attaching shingles to the top of a home.
Nails are frequently used in construction and woodworking. Common uses for them in the home include hanging a picture on a wall, joining one object to another, or repairing an old wooden fence.
A nail has three parts: The top of the nail (which is usually flattened) is called the head, the shaft is called the shank, and the sharp part at the bottom is called the point. When you’re hammering a nail into something, where should you hit the nail? You don’t need to be an expert to know that you should be hitting a nail on its head; this is the correct way to do it. Thus, this phrase is used as a metaphor— when a person says or does something that is exactly right, it’s as if they are hitting a nail on the head.
- This paint color I chose for the house looks great. Yep, I really hit the nail on the head.
- We played trivia and whenever it was Harry’s turn, he nailed it every single time.
- If you said my favorite color was blue, then you got it right on the button.
- Claire said I could benefit from having a bigger phone, so I bought one. I have to say, she was correct.