Hitting the nail on the head is 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 thinking about it, and then he noticed the couch was missing. Bill’s wife told him: “Yep, you hit the nail on the head. I sold it while you were at work.”
In other words, Bill was correct, the couch was indeed gone
Origin Of ‘Hit The Nail On The Head’
The phrase ‘hit the nail on the head’ must obviously derive from the literal act of hitting a nail on its head. Perhaps it has roots somewhere in carpentry, though that’s not clear. As for the age of this expression, well, we’ll get to that in a moment, but first I’d like to take a few seconds and talk about nails. No, no, not the ones on your fingers. I’m talking about the ones made from metal!
Nails have been around for a long time, thousands of years even. 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, they are used for work that’s done on the roof, such as attaching and securing shingles to the top of your home.
Nails are frequently used in construction and woodworking. Common uses in the home might include using one to hang a picture on the wall, to join and fasten one object to another, or perhaps making repairs to 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 the 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.
Anyways, back to the age of this idiom. 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).”
The expression apparently goes even further back, as early as the mid 15th century. That would mean it is at least over 570 years old.
- You hit the nail on the head with this color of paint for the house; it looks better than I imagined.