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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Hobnail \Hob"nail`\, n. [1st hob + nail.]

  1. A short, sharp-pointed, large-headed nail, -- used in shoeing houses and for studding the soles of heavy shoes.

  2. A clownish person; a rustic.

    Hobnail liver (Med.), a disease in which the liver is shrunken, hard, and covered with projections like hobnails; one of the forms of cirrhosis of the liver.


Hobnail \Hob"nail`\, v. t. To tread down roughly, as with hobnailed shoes.

Your rights and charters hobnailed into slush.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1590s, the first element probably identical with hob "rounded peg or pin used as a mark or target in games" (1580s), of unknown origin. See hob. Because they were used to make rough shoes, the word was used figuratively for "rustic person" 17c. and after. Related: Hobnailed.


n. 1 A short nail with a thick head, typically used in boot soles. 2 (context obsolete English) A clownish person; a rustic. vb. 1 To fit with hobnails. 2 (context transitive English) To tread down roughly, as with hobnailed shoes.

  1. n. a short nail with a thick head; used to protect the soles of boots

  2. v. supply with hobnails

Hobnail (disambiguation)

A hobnail is a short nail with a thick head: used to increase the durability of boot soles.

Hobnail may also refer to:

  • A pattern of glassware: (sometimes called Fenton Hobnail) where the body of the piece has a regular array of bumps, as if finished with glass hobnails
  • A popular song from 1907, performed by Billy Williams
  • "Hobnailed liver" is medical jargon for cirrhosis of the liver
  • Cellular morphology pathognomonic for clear cell adenocarcinoma of the ovary

In footwear, a hobnail is a short nail with a thick head used to increase the durability of boot soles.

Hobnailed boots (known in Scotland as "tackety boots") are boots with hobnails (nails inserted into the soles of the boots), usually installed in a regular pattern, over the sole. They also usually have an iron horseshoe-shaped insert, called a heel iron, to strengthen the heel, and an iron toe-piece. The hobnails project below the sole and provide traction on soft or rocky ground and snow, but they tend to slide on smooth hard surfaces. They may also have steel toecaps.

They have been used since antiquity for inexpensive durable footwear, often by workmen and the military, including the trench boots of World War I. Roman soldiers wore hobnailed sandals (" Caligae").

Important design work for the modern hobnailed boot was done during World War I, e.g. the " Pershing Boot" in the USA. Problems experienced in designing WWI USA army boots were:

  • Tearing at the backstay: cured by sewing the backstay on with 3 rows of stitching each side.
  • Letting water in: cured by dubbin.
  • Rotting in foul conditions in trenches: cured by chrome tanning rather than only using vegetable tanning.
  • Cold conducting through the hobnails into the feet: that, and need for strength, was cured by three thicknesses of leather in the soles.
  • Sole wear: toe and heel irons as well as hobnails.

Hobnailed boots were formerly much used for mountaineering to grip on sloping rock surfaces. Mountaineering hobnailed boots tended to also have large hobnails fastened to the extreme edges of the soles and heels to grip on any small roughness on steeply sloping rock and on snow, particularly before crampons came into common use.

Usage examples of "hobnail".

In plain buffin doublets and kersey stockings and heavy, hobnail shoes, they stood cheek by jowl with artisans in leather jerkins and red Monmouth caps.

There was no doubt what he was from the hobnailed boots, but he was using his spear, the only piece of equipment he carried, as a walking stick the way Cashel did his quarterstaff.

Loisl, and cut slices with his hunting knife from a large white radish and ate them with black bread, shining good-humor from the tip of the black-cock feather on his old green felt hat to his bare, bronzed knees and his hobnailed shoes.

A caped coat, fastened to the throat, hung over the short kilt skirt, and rough gaiters buttoned down over a wonderful little pair of hobnailed boots.

Their hobnailed boots crashed on the planking and the dangling metal fittings of their armor jingled together.

Garric remembered kicking and being surprised when his bare heel instead of a hobnailed bootsole crunched hard against jelly-coated bone.

In the one the are plenty of impressions of his big hobnailed bootsin the other, none!

He was a swaggerer who thought himself a handsome fellow despite a scarred cheek and the two toes missing from the left foot visible through his hobnailed sandals.

In deference to the sleep of those they protected, the Blood Eagles on interior guard wore soft-soled sandals rather than hobnailed boots.

A Blood Eagle judged his placement, then stamped his hobnailed heel on the knife.

I bring you home to keep you from freezing your goobers off, and I get Hobnailed for my trouble.

He had changed his uniform for a goatskin, wore hobnailed shoes, a belt full of pistols, and carried a heavy carbine.

Atretes followed Hadassah into the room the guard had opened, he listened to the sound of the hobnailed sandals on stone and clenched his fist.

Half a dozen women sat at a plain deal table in the centre of the room, some dressed in black overalls and hobnailed boots, some in bombazine dresses and woollen shawls, a few in clothes they appeared to have stitched for themselves.

Blanco ignored him while he did not shirk but was quick with a fist or hobnailed boot for any who fell behind.