pin down

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pin down

1. Literally, to use one's body weight to hold someone down on the ground. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "pin" and "down." My older brother always used to pin me down and pinch my arms when we were kids.
2. By extension, to try to force someone into a position where they must commit to a single, precise answer or piece of information. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "pin" and "down." The president never let reporters question him long enough for them to pin him down on any issue they brought up. It may seem dishonest, but it's important not to get pinned down on a topic that could hurt the company.
3. To use pins, nails, tacks, etc., to secure or affix something (to something else). In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "pin" and "down." Remember to pin the tarp down, or it will get blown away when the storm hits. Let me just pin down this pattern onto the mannequin so I can remember the design in the morning.
4. To specify something; to establish or determine something concretely. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "pin" and "down." I'd like to pin down the dates we want to fly so I can start looking at ticket prices. I think we've pinned down the cause of the electrical failures. It seems like you're struggling to pin down what your essay is really trying to say.
See also: down, pin
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

pin someone down (on something)

 and nail someone down* (on something)
Fig. to demand and receive a firm answer from someone to some question. (Alludes to shifting from answer to answer; commit to one answer or another.) I tried to pin him down on a time and place, but he was very evasive. Don't try to pin down the mayor on anything! I want to nail her down on a meeting time.
See also: down, pin

pin something down

 and nail something down 
1. Lit to attach or affix something with nails or pins. Pin the pattern down temporarily. Nail down this piece of flooring every 12 inches.
2. Fig. to determine or fix something, such as a date, an agreement, an amount of money, a decision, etc. It will be ready sometime next month. I can't pin the date down just yet, however. I can't pin down the exact date just now.
See also: down, pin
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

pin down

1. Fix or establish clearly, as in The firefighters finally were able to pin down the source of the odor. [Mid-1900s]
2. Force someone to give precise information or opinions, as in The reporter pinned down the governor on the issue of conservation measures. [c. 1700]
See also: down, pin
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

pin down

v.
1. To secure or fasten something using a pin or pins: The tailor pinned down the patch before sewing it on. I pinned my tie down to stop it from flapping in the wind.
2. To render someone or something immobile by or as if by holding down: We pinned down the tarp with four heavy rocks. They pinned me down on the table while the doctor removed the bullet from my leg. The platoon was pinned down by heavy machine-gun fire.
3. To establish something clearly: Doctors finally pinned down the cause of the disease. I had a strange feeling about the old house, but I couldn't pin it down.
4. To compel someone to give firm opinions or precise information: The reporter pinned the governor down on the issue of raising taxes. The newspaper tried to pin down the candidates on their positions regarding capital punishment.
See also: down, pin
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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References in periodicals archive ?
PINNED DOWN: Saddam struggles with US commando as two others point their rifles at him moments after he was arrested; FOUND: Captured Saddam
Precocious cosmos A new portrait of the infant cosmos pinned down its age with unprecedented precision, providing new evidence that the universe began with a brief but humongous growth spurt and that the cosmos already contained a plethora of stars when it was just 200 million years old (163: 99 *).
The pundits got it right when they pinned down powerful men as those having political influence or, more importantly, money.
By comparing the size of these lumps with that of the vast clusters of galaxies in the Sloan map, astronomers have pinned down several key measures of the universe to an unprecedented accuracy.
Gecko toes Scientists pinned down the molecular basis of the geckos prowess at scampering up polished walls and hanging from ceilings (162: 133).
Scientists finally have pinned down the molecular basis of this seeming magic.
Using those ratios, the researchers pinned down the sources of the ancient roof beams.
148), researchers now report that they've pinned down the origin of the background at energies where it had remained most elusive--above 2,000 electronvolts.
Probing the environs of another distant quasar, BR1202-0725, McMahon and Hu told Science News that they may have pinned down the location of a galaxy imaged by other astronomers in the infrared with the Keck Telescope and in visible light using the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) New Technology Telescope in La Silla, Chile.
After more than half a century, scientists have finally pinned down the molecular structure of the enzyme urease.
Biretta of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore cautions that the researchers haven't pinned down the distance to the object ejecting the gas, thought to be a neutron star or black hole that steals matter from a less-dense companion.
Louis and his colleagues pinned down these regions by tracking blood flow in the brain.