Put Your Finger On Something

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Meaning of Idiom 'Put Your (or one's) Finger On Something'

To put one's finger on something is to be able to understand something or know the reason for it; to describe something; to identify something. 1,2,3

Usage

This expression is usually used in the negative, as in "I can't put my finger on it."

Examples:

"There is something familiar about that guy, but I can't put my finger on it."

"I know there is something wrong with these financial records," said the investigator, "but I can't quite put my finger on what it is."

"I've been trying to fix my car for a week with no success but my cousin, who is a whiz at engines, put his finger on the problem after just a few seconds."

Origin

Used since the late 1800's.

The allusion here is to looking through a written document or book, viewing a piece of art, etc. and physically laying one's finger on some important aspect, fact, etc.

Sources
1. Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.
2. Heacock, Paul. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.
3. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

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