A hangnail or agnail is a small, torn piece of skin near a fingernail or toenail. Unlike whitlows, hangnails are usually caused by dry skin or (in the case of fingernails) nail biting, and may be prevented with proper moisturization of the skin.

When attempting to remove a hangnail, additional skin may be painfully ripped off if its attachment if not broken properly. This may lead to a painful infection called paronychia. Therefore, hangnails should usually be cut using nail scissors or a nail clipper; biting them frequently makes it worse. People with a hangnail should be careful to cut it all off and rub hand lotion into the cuticles two to three times a day. [ [http://www.webmd.com/hw-popup/Home-treatment-for-a-hangnail Home treatment for a hangnail ] ]

The term "hangnail" is misleading, as a hangnail is not an actual part of the nail. It is dead, dried skin, not nail, the latter being mostly made up of keratin, a tough fibrous protein.

The term "hangnail" is colloquially known as a "catchy" or, in the UK, a stepmother's blessing. [ [http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/fulltext/am1924/pt_b.htm Stepmother's blessing] ]


"Agnail" is the Middle English term meaning "corn on the foot." It comes from the Old English term "angnægl" (from "ang"- tight/painful + "nægl"- nail). "Agnail" was adapted to hangnail by a process of folk etymology. [citeweb|url = http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=hangnail|title = Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary Entry for "hangnail"]


External links

* [http://www.mothernature.com/Library/Bookshelf/Books/48/99.cfm Hangnail article] from MotherNature.com /The Doctors Book of Home Remedies II
* [http://www.webmd.com/hw/health_guide_atoz/not257297.asp?navbar=hw257352 Home treatment] from WebMD

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  • Hangnail — Hang nail ( n[=a]l ), n. [A corruption of agnail.] A small piece or sliver of skin which hangs loose, near the root of a finger nail. Holloway. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • hangnail — (n.) also hang nail, 1670s, apparently from HANG (Cf. hang) (v.) + (finger) nail, but probably folk etymology from O.E. agnail a corn on the foot, painful spike (in the flesh) from P.Gmc. *ang compressed, hard, painful (from PIE *angh tight,… …   Etymology dictionary

  • hangnail — ► NOUN ▪ a piece of torn skin at the root of a fingernail. ORIGIN alteration of agnail «painful swelling around a nail», from Old English; influenced by HANG(Cf. ↑hang) …   English terms dictionary

  • hangnail — [haŋ′nāl΄] n. [altered (by pop. assoc. with HANG) < AGNAIL] a bit of torn skin hanging at the side or base of a fingernail …   English World dictionary

  • hangnail — UK [ˈhæŋˌneɪl] / US noun [countable] Word forms hangnail : singular hangnail plural hangnails a painful piece of loose skin at the side of a nail …   English dictionary

  • Hangnail (disambiguation) — Hangnail may refer to: * hangnails, strips of loose skin near fingernails or toenails * Hangnail, a heavy metal band * Hangnail, a Christian punk/CCM band ** Hangnail , an album by the band * Hangnail , a song by Nickelback from their album… …   Wikipedia

  • hangnail — noun Etymology: by folk etymology from agnail inflammation about the nail, from Middle English, corn on the foot or toe, from Old English angnægl, from ang (akin to enge tight, painful) + nægl nail more at anger Date: 1678 a bit of skin hanging… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • hangnail — /hang nayl /, n. a small piece of partly detached skin at the side or base of the fingernail. Cf. whitlow. [1300 50; ME angenayle corn, OE angnaegl, equiv. to ang (var. of enge narrow, painful; c. G eng, see ANGER) + naegl callus, NAIL; modern h… …   Universalium

  • hangnail — noun a) A loose, narrow strip of nail tissue protruding from the side edge and anchored near the base of a fingernail or toenail. b) A pointed upper corner of the toenail (often created by improperly trimming by rounding the corner) that, as the… …   Wiktionary

  • hangnail — A loose triangular tag of skin attached proximally in the medial or lateral nail fold. * * * hang·nail haŋ .nāl n a bit of skin hanging loose at the side or root of a fingernail * * * hang·nail (hangґnāl) a shred of eponychium on a proximal… …   Medical dictionary

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