nail in the coffin
(another, or the last, or the final) nail in someone’s coffin
- an action/event that will help bring about the death, end, or failure of something or someone
- something that could contribute harm or even destroy the person or thing referred to
- She was late for the fourth day in a row. It will be another nail in her coffin when the boss hears about it.
- Cassandra’s husband has cheated on her again. It must be another nail in the coffin for them.
- The company lost the contract, and I think it will be the last nail in their coffin as they were already struggling.
- His lungs were weak from years of smoking, so to catch pneumonia was a final nail in his coffin.
- The decision to stop killing animals for fashion is yet another nail in the fur trade coffin.
- The other nail in the coffin of shopping malls – is the rise of e-commerce, particularly after the pandemic.
- During the pandemic banning tourism was one more nail in the coffin for airline companies.
- Abraham Lincoln had hit the nail in the coffin with his statement.
Hit the nail in the coffin
There is another similar but a little weird expression, “hit the nail in the coffin”, which is a mashup of two different phrases – “nail in the coffin” and “hit the nail on the head.” But in terms of meanings, it’s a synonym of “hit the nail on the head.” See example number 8 above.
Quite a literal phrase alluding to a corpse being nailed into a wooden coffin. Each nail is trapping them in, and the final one is very significant.
It has been in use since at least the mid-1700s. Here is an extract from The Taunton Courier (Somerset, England) Sept 1812:
“Mr. Elton, who, by exposing the obliquity of his personal feelings and the dereliction of his public duty, has clenched a nail in the coffin of the Political Register.”