nail house

a privately owned building


nail house = Ein (aus China stammender) Begriff der Häuser von Menschen bezeichnet, die sich weigern für neue Bauprojekte auszuziehen (Sie werden "hartnäckige Nägel" genannt, weil sie wie Nägel im Holz stecken, die sich nicht leicht entfernen oder einschlagen lassen).



“Singapore: Why these defiant ’NAIL HOUSE' owners refuse to sell. It is hard to miss the two little houses sitting defiantly in the middle of the Singapore building site.”

Yvette Tan - BBC News, Singapore (10th January 2021)

“China's extraordinary ‘NAIL’ HOUSES show the government doesn't get its own way all the time. The holdouts have become symbols of resistance.”

Adam Withnall - The Independent (20th May 2015)

Did you

nail house
noun phrase

- a property belonging to people who refuse to move out for new construction projects


The term "nail house" (钉子户, dīngzihù) originated in China in the early 2000s, during a period of rapid urbanization and development.

As developers sought to acquire land for new construction projects, some homeowners refused to sell their properties or accept the compensation offered, often due to disputes over the terms or amounts of compensation.

These homeowners became known as "nail houses" because they were like nails that could not be easily removed or hammered down. The term was coined by developers as a humorous way to refer to these stubborn property owners.

A “nail house”, together with its synonym “a holdout”, is found in both British and American English


Nail houses are the talk of the town in China, with several high-profile cases grabbing headlines in the press. One such instance involved a family in Chongqing, who refused to leave their home of three generations, despite 280 other families vacating the location to make way for a six-story shopping mall. The developers cut off the power and water supply to their home and even dug a 10-meter deep pit around it to force them to move. But the family fought back and broke into the construction site, reclaiming their property and hoisting the Chinese flag on top.

The Chongqing family gained widespread attention and support — a local martial arts champion, Yang Wu, built a staircase to the house and threatened anyone who dared to evict them. A blogger named it "the coolest nail house in history" and state-run newspapers and major media outlets across the country started covering the story. A poll on sina-dot-com showed that 85% of respondents supported the couple rather than the developers. However, later on, the Chinese government forbade newspapers from reporting on the event.

Despite being offered 3.5 million yuan (US$453,000) by the developers, the owners refused to move. Eventually however, they settled with the developers in 2007 for an undisclosed amount.


- "Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty." - Henry David Thoreau

- "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." - Emiliano Zapata

- "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke

- "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life." - Winston Churchill

- "I'm not challenging authority, I'm just questioning stupidity." - Unknown


- open resistance to authority or opposition

challenging the status quo, contumacy, defiance, disobedience, dissent, drawing a line in the sand, digging in your heels, facing the dragon (the music), holding your ground, insolence, insurrection, intransigence, making a stand, noncompliance, nonconformity, not taking "no" for an answer, not going down without a fight, obstinance, obstreperousness, opposition, pig-headedness, playing hardball, planting your feet in the ground, raising your sword, rebellion, rebelliousness, refusing to back down (to be a pawn, to be cowed, to be broken, to be moved, to be pushed around, to be silenced, to flinch), refusal, self-determination, self-will, standing out from the crowd, standing tall (firm, your ground), staying true to yourself, stepping up to the plate, sticking to your guns, taking the bull by the horns, throwing down the gauntlet, throwing your hat in the ring, walking your own walk

SMUGGLE OWAD into an English conversation, say something like:

“NAIL HOUSES illustrate the tension between progress and preservation, and serve to stimulate lively public debate.”

THANKS to Günter for suggesting today’s phrase.

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