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onyx (n.)

type of quartz characterized by a structure in parallel bands differing in color or degree of translucency, used for cameos, etc., mid-13c., oneche; c. 1300, onix, from Old French oniche "onyx" (12c.), and directly from Latin onyx (genitive onychis), from Greek onyx "onyx-stone," originally "claw, talon, hoof, fingernail" (see nail (n.)). So called because the mineral's color sometimes resembles that of a human fingernail, pink with white streaks.

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paronychia (n.)

"inflammation beside a fingernail," 1590s, from Latin, from Greek paronykhia "whitlow," from para- "beside" (see para- (1)) + onyx "nail" (see nail (n.)) + abstract noun ending -ia.

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ungual (adj.)
"pertaining to a nail or claw," 1834, from Latin unguis "a claw, nail of the finger or toe;" cognate with Greek onyx, Old English nægel, Old Norse nagl "nail;" see nail (n.).
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cameo (n.)
early 15c., kaadmaheu, camew, chamehieux and many other spellings (from early 13c. in Anglo-Latin), "engraving in relief upon a precious stone with two layers of colors" (such as onyx, agate, or shell) and done so as to utilize the effect of the colors, from Old French camaieu and directly from Medieval Latin cammaeus, which is of unknown origin, perhaps ultimately from Arabic qamaa'il "flower buds," or Persian chumahan "agate."

In 19c. also used of other raised, carved work on a miniature scale. Transferred sense of "small character or part that stands out from other minor parts" in a play, etc., is from 1928, from earlier meaning "short literary sketch or portrait" (1851), a transferred sense from cameo silhouettes. A cameotype (1864) was a small, vignette daguerreotype mounted in a jeweled setting.
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nail (n.)

Old English negel "tapering metal pin," nægl "fingernail (handnægl), toenail," from Proto-Germanic *naglaz (source also of Old Norse nagl "fingernail," nagli "metal nail;" Old Saxon and Old High German nagel, Old Frisian neil, Middle Dutch naghel, Dutch nagel, German Nagel "fingernail; small metal spike"), from PIE root *(o)nogh "nail of the finger or toe" (source also of Greek onyx "claw, fingernail;" Latin unguis "fingernail, claw;" Old Church Slavonic noga "foot," noguti "fingernail, claw;" Lithuanian naga "hoof," nagutis "fingernail;" Old Irish ingen, Old Welsh eguin "fingernail, claw").

The "fingernail" sense seems to be the original one, but many figurative uses are from the "small metal spike" sense: hard as nails is from 1828. To hit the nail on the head "say or do just the right thing" is by 1520s; in Middle English driven in the nail (c. 1400) was "to drive home one's point, clinch an argument," and smiten the nail on the hed was "tell the exact truth" (mid-15c.). Phrase on the nail "on the spot, exactly" is from 1590s, of obscure origin; OED says it is not certain it belongs to this sense of nail.

As a unit of English cloth measure (about 2 1/4 inches) from late 14c.; perhaps from a nail being used to mark that length on the end of a yardstick.

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