Nail Lingo

Don’t know some of the terms mentioned in blog posts, videos, and other content on the site and/or lingo used by others in the nail art/polish world?  You can find your definitions and terms here!


threesixtynails – Nail Lingo (Downloadable Version)


Nail Artist ~ a person who paints their nails, creates original and/or inspired designs (re-creations, too), and enjoys expressing themselves through creative designs on their finger canvases

Nail Tech[nician] ~ a person trained professionally in acrylics, nail art, powders, gel, and more; also can be classified as “nail artists”

Lacquer or Varnish ~ same as “nail polish”, just different names

Nail [Care] Definitions:

Nail Bed ~ cell structure that your nail plate is supported by

Nail Plate ~ the main pink/nude part of your nail (often confused with the nail bed)

Free Edge ~ the white/tan part that extends from your nail bed (optionally visible for those who keep their nails short)

Smile Line ~ the line that marks the curve of where your free edge begins

Cuticle ~ lip of skin at the top of your nail that keeps germs/bacteria/even water out of your body; often pushed (recommended), dissolved (personal preference, or cut (not recommended) to give a cleaner look to a manicure

Sidewall ~ skin on the sides of your nail that works like the cuticle does; often where hangnails lay

Cuticle Oil/Treatment ~ solution that moisturizes cuticles when massaged into the skin; often applied before pushing/dissolving/cutting cuticles

Nail File ~ tool used to shorten nails without cutting or to shape them

Nail Buffer ~ tool used to smooth/sand the top of the nail

Nail Clipper ~ tool used to trim nails and remove hang nails, depending on shape

Polish Definitions:

Holographic or Holo ~ meaning a rainbow-shimmer/oil-shine polish that looks AMAZING in direct sunlight

Linear Holographic ~ holographic polish with a rainbow arc that shifts over the nail as you look at it

Scatter/Sparse Holographic ~ more like flakes/sparkles that glitter and glimmer more than a linear

Fine, Micro, and Chunky Glitter ~ “fine” is very small glitter pieces (almost shimmer), “micro” is smaller than medium glitter pieces that are more like sparkles, “chunky” is very big glitter or a mix of different glitter sizes in one mix (polish like this is generally hard to remove)

Shift ~ referencing a polish that can show more sides of its multi-chrome or duo-chrome effects in different lighting

Multi-Chrome or Duo-Chrome ~ a chameleon-like polish (changes its various colors in different lighting) that has multiple color tones in one formula that will change depending on point of view

Flip ~ a polish that looks SUPER different in contrasting lighting

Chrome ~ when in powder-form, generally mirror-effect that is incredibly reflective; in other polishes, more metallic finish

Matte ~ finish on polish or in a topcoat that doesn’t reflect light like a glossy topcoat would

Satin ~ almost-matte

Jelly ~ almost-clear tinted base that is used for dimensional manicures with layers of jelly polish and/or jelly polish and glitter

Cream/Creme ~ opaque polish with full coverage and a glossy finish

Crelly ~ usually-milky polish, generally filming over some glitter shapes

Textured [Polish] ~ Polish that has a rough finish that shows texture and bumps; usually a matte glitter

Topper ~ a polish that is so sheer, it could be used as a unique finish effect over other polishes, such as creams/cremes like black, white, and other colors

Gel Polish ~ polish that is cured (set and dried) under a UV or LED lamp/light; more commonly used in nail salons and at runway projects

No-Cure Gel Polish ~ polish that is not cured under a UV or LED light that claims to have the same wear length of at least 7 to 14 days that a UV or LED cured polish would (ex. Sally Hansen Miracle Gel, essie Gel Couture, Revlon Color Stay Gel Envy, wet n wild 1 Step Wonder Gel, etc.)

Nail Art Terms:

Hand Painting/Freehand ~ designs created with (usually) a small detailing paint/nail art brush, toothpick, dotting tool, or even nail art pens

Stamping [Plate] ~ designs created with a stamper (usually squishy round material in a handle) and stamping plate (piece of metal or plastic with designs carved into them)

Water Decals ~ designs transferred off of plastic/paper like temporary tattoos

Nail Vinyls/Stencils ~ stickers with a design removed from the middle; filled in with nail polish or acrylic paint to create the design

Acrylic Paint ~ usually a craft material, used by nail artists when creating detailed nail art

Nail Blogger/Vlogger Terms:

[Nail Polish] Haul ~ mini to huge “haul” of polish or nail art-related things collected recently, usually in the width of a month or two or even a day or a few

Swatch ~ like a pattern swatch, you “swatch” polishes on your nails or a nail wheel to see how they look when they’re on

#LacquerLikesList ~ the threesixtynails version of a “Lemming List”; a wishlist of polishes that you’d really like to have

Mainstream Brand ~ a brand of polish or nail products you’d see in stores (ex. China Glaze, OPI, essie, Sally Hansen, etc.)

Indie (Independent) Brand ~ a brand of polish or nail products you wouldn’t see in stores; generally online only (ex. Cupcake Polish, Glisten and Glow, Picture Polish, Starrily, etc.)

Wear Test ~ wearing a polish for a certain amount of time and comparing how good it looks to/survived since when you first put it on

Collaboration or Collab ~ group of nail artists get together to create nail art designs under one theme; they may also get together to do similar haul, top-ten/twenty/etc. polishes, and other features

Mani Swap ~ two nail artists choose a design that the other has created and re-create it to compare and learn

Twin Manis ~ two nail artists select a design to create or re-create and compare how they both did and what they learned

Unboxing ~ the opening of a package (nail mail) in a video or post full of nail polish/nail art materials

*Don’t see a nail world definition/term you’d like to know/are looking for? Email and it can be added!