nail (one's) colors to the mast

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nail (one's) colors to the mast

To refuse to cease or surrender. Because lowering a ship's flag was a customary indication of surrender, this nautical phrase emphasizes the resolve of a ship's crew. We will nail our colors to the mast and fight on—they will never capture us! We're going to have a tough time beating this team now that they are playing with such determination. I fear they've nailed their colors to the mast.
See also: color, mast, nail

nail one's colors to the mast

Adopt an unyielding attitude. This nineteenth-century expression alludes to flying a flag from a ship’s mast. If the flag is nailed to the mast, it cannot be hauled down. Sir Walter Scott may have been the first to put it in writing: “Stood for his country’s glory fast, And nailed her colours to the mast” (Marmion, 1808). Although the days of flag-flying sailing ships are in the past, the expression lives on. It appeared in Great Outdoors (Sept. 27, 1989): “The prince neatly side-stepped nailing his colours to the mast in the national parks debate.”
See also: color, mast, nail