Dead As A Doornail: What Is the Meaning of this Popular Idiom?

When listening to English conversations you might hear the term ‘dead as a doornail’ but what does this saying mean and where did it come from? We are going to answer both of these questions as well as taking a look at how this term can be incorporated into a conversation.

Dead As A Doornail

Dead As A Doornail Meaning

When someone refers to someone who is as ‘dead as a doornail’ they are referring to the fact that the person or creature is absolutely not alive by any stretch of the imagination. It talks about how there is no mistake that this person or animal is dead.

Origin of this idiom

The saying ‘dead as a doornail’ is believed to have originated in the 1300s when it was written in poetry. It is commonly believed that the saying derived from the act of clenching nails to secure a door.

“Dead As A Doornail” Examples

Example Sentences

You would use this idiomatic term when talking about a deceased person or animal, and you wanted to convey the fact that they were definitely dead. You might say something along the lines of

  • ‘My cat died last night, I thought he was just sleeping but on closer inspection he was as dead as a doornail.’

The term is intended to be used in a more light hearted conversation about death.

It could also be used to verify the death of someone, for example if someone asked you if you were certain about a death, you could reply with

  • ‘I am absolutely certain, she is dead as a doornail.’

Other examples:

  • It lay there with its eyes closed, dead as a doornail.
  • He shot the tiger until it was as dead as a doornail.
  • The treaty may be considered to be as dead as a doornail.
  • It writhed painfully and quickly sank to the bottom, dead as a doornail.

Conversation Examples

If you are curious to know how the term ‘dead as a doornail’ would fit into a conversation, here are some examples featuring the phrase.

Conversation 1:

  • Person 1: “How is your pet guinea pig? He wasn’t very well was he?”
  • Person 2: “No and now he is as dead as a doornail.”

Conversation 2:

  • Person 1: “My aunt died.”
  • Person 2: “I’m sorry to hear that.”
  • Person 1: “Yeah, I only saw her last Friday and she was fine, when I went to the hospital yesterday, she was as dead as a doornail.”

Other Ways to Say the Phrase

If you wanted to express the meaning of the term ‘dead as a doornail’ in another way, there are plenty of ways you can do that. Here are a few examples of how to say the term using different words.

  • Stone cold dead
  • Dead as a dodo
  • Dead as good Friday
  • Dead and gone

Dead As A Doornail | Picture

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