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

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

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

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
References in periodicals archive ?
Researchers have now taken a key step toward pinning down the value of this much debated number, which plays a fundamental role in determining the age and size of the universe.
Much of the variability in response stems from a difficulty in pinning down the exact point at which light exposure turns off an individual's biological pacemaker, Czeisler says.
Yet Ziegler suggests that researchers may have difficulty pinning down the stresses of poverty and racism as causes of high blood pressure.
Pinning down the precise locations of Uranus' auroras as anything more than vague, diffuse glows, however, has posed a particularly difficult task, even though Voyager 2 detected hints of their presence when it flew past the planet in January 1986.
Dental researchers hope that by pinning down specific bacteria, they eventually may be able to interfere with the progression of periodontal disease, perhaps by preventing the key types from colonizing or by cutting off their food supply, which consists primarily of the by-products of other bacteria.
The bones were redeposited at some point, acknowledges Irving, creating uncertainty in pinning down their age.