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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.
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.
pin something downand 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.
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]
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.