(WYTV)- Dead as a doornail means dead.
No doubt about it, not alive, unequivocally deceased. The term goes back to the 1300s, and we find it in poems of the time.
Although William Shakespeare came up with many new words, he did not invent this phrase but he used dead as a doornail in Henry The 4th, Part Two. And we see it in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in 1843.
The phrase comes from the way we secured doors before we had screws.
You hammer a nail through two pieces of timber. When it pokes out the other side, you bend that piece over and hammer it into the wood, a like a hook.
It’s tough to remove, the nail is said to be dead, and the door is extra strong until we started using mass produced screws around 1770.
Another similar phrase is deader than a doornail.
I mentioned the author Charles Dickens and we say “like the Dickens,” as in, “hurts like the Dickens.” It has nothing to do with Charles Dickens.
For hundreds of years, the word dickens was another word for devil.