Where does the expression “to hit the nail on the head” come from and What does it mean?

The expression “to hit the nail on the head” means: To say or do the right thing; to express in words the exact idea; to speak to the point; to hit the bull’s-eye.

Our old Romans may have given us the grounds for this expression in the common saying, acu rem tangere, literally, “to touch a matter on the point,” but which is ordinarily rendered, “to hit the nail on the head.”

For that matter, though the French say mettre le doigt dessus, “to hit on the finger,” that too is ordinarily translated into our English saying. But our own expression goes back at least four and a half centuries.

Apperson reports finding it in the Vulgaria (c. 1520) of John Stan-bridge: “Thou hyttest the nayle on the head.”

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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