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QUICK QUOTE

Idiom

Fight tooth and nail

Meaning
To fight vigorously for something
Origin

Fight tooth and nail The idiom first appeared in print in 1535, in Sir. Thomas More’s ‘In A Dialogue of Comfort and Tribulation’: ‘They would fayne kepe them as long as euer they mighte, euen with tooth and nayle.’ In his work, ‘Certain Tractates’, in 1562, Ninian Winget writes: ‘Contending with tuith and nail (as is the prouverb).’ As Winget describes the phrase as a proverb, it is clear that it was already a common phrase by this time. Its earliest origin might go back to an ancient Latin phrase, ‘toto corpore atque omnibus ungulis’, which means ‘with all the body and with every nail’. Years later, the Victorian British author Charles Dickens used it in ‘David Copperfield’ (1850), writing: ‘I go at it tooth and nail’.

Examples

I’m going to fight tooth and nail for a promotion at work. I’ve been there for five years and deserve to be the vice president.

The lawyer put in many hours, fighting tooth and nail to get his client released from prison.

They might get on now, but as children they used to fight tooth and nail.

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