Printable Version
Pronunciation: nêt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Hard-shelled seed with an edible kernel from a tree. 2. A hard object with a threaded hole that connects to a bolt with matching male threading. 3. A crazy person, a screwball, a person who is crazy about an activity or organization, an overwrought fan(atic). 4. (Slang) A testicle. 5. (Slang) A human head with its contents.

Notes: Nuts!This common word finds uses in all registers of English, from the high to the low. The British have extended it to nutter in the sense of "screwball". In the plural it serves as an interjection of frustration: Nuts! It has two adjectives, nuttish "like a nut" (in the original sense) and nutty "crazy".

In Play: In the original sense of this word we might hear: "The nuts, olives, and pickles were nice garnishes for the dinner." This is the most popular euphemism for "crazy person": "That nut actually proposed that we produce tiny jackhammers for breaking up peanut brittle!" (What a nutty idea that was.)

Word History: The English word nut was hnutu in Old English, akin to knot and kissing cousin of Dutch noot and German Nuss. These all come from Proto-Indo-European kneu- "nut". It emerged in Latin as nux (nuc-s). This Latin word has two diminutives, nucula "little nut" and nucleus "kernel", which English borrowed. The sense of craziness developed from the sense "head, brain" because of the similarity of a hard shell around a kernel. The pejorative drift of the word is probably due to phrases like 'off your nut'. (Now let's again thank a long-time contributor, Lew Jury, for seeing the interest in this common Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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