as dead as a doornail


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Related to as dead as a doornail: at one fell swoop

as dead as a doornail

Really dead. Doornails, which provided strength and decoration, were hammered into the wood and then clenched for additional grip. Because a doornail was bent, it could not be used again, which made it even deader. A more recent phrase is “as dead as last year's tennis balls.” In the era before year-round indoor tennis, they would have lost their bounce before the start of the next season.
See also: dead, doornail