What is the meaning of

"pulling out one's fingernails"

Is the meaning of the expression similar to

"pull teeth"

or does it have a different nuance?

Here is a sample sentence;

It took until they were pulling out their fingernails before they finally reacted.

I hope this makes a sense.

  • You need to provide a sample sentence for context. Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 16:29

2 Answers 2


Pulling out fingernails is an ancient form of torture. It's not all that common an idiom, but it would refer to doing something very unpleasant to someone to force them to do something. Normally it is used as a hyperbole for situations where you really had to pressure someone

I had to pull his fingernails out to get him to tell me why he didn't want to go to her birthday party.

"Pulling teeth" is an expression that is used in a simile to suggest that something was difficult or required an unexpectedly large amount of effort

Getting him to tell me why he didn't want to go to her birthday party was like pulling teeth.

Note that in the latter case, the expression describes how difficult it was for you to extract the information. In the former, it describes how unpleasant the situation was for the other person.

  • I understand, like hard-core version of arm twisting.
    – tksg
    Commented Jan 26, 2019 at 14:02

Both "pulling out one's hair" and "biting one's fingernails" mean roughly the same thing: to be very worried about something. To me, "pulling out one's fingernails" sounds like an incorrect combination of these idioms.

  • 1
    Probably, it's rather a new form of chimera like expression. Thanks!
    – tksg
    Commented Jan 26, 2019 at 14:03

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