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Re: Dead as a doornail

Posted by James Briggs on May 13, 2000

In Reply to: Dead as a doornail posted by ESC on May 13, 2000

: Was there or was there not a discussion here recently on the phrase "dead as a doornail"? Someone was asking me about this phrase today and giving a possible origin. I did a search but couldn't find the previous discussion in the archives.

That's my memory too, but I can't place it either.
Here's my ?repeat offering.

As dead as a doornail is an expression used to indicate actual or apparent total lack of life. The saying is many hundreds of years old and is one of many used over the centuries to describe death. It has survived longer than all the others, eg dead as mackerel, although "dead as mutton" is still in use. Medieval doors were studded with heavy nails- Doornails, one of which was used as a knocker. This nail was clearly very unresponsive and dead to the constant assault, hence the saying.