[ nuht-shel ]
/ ˈnʌtˌʃɛl /


the shell of a nut.

Nearby words

  1. nutriture,
  2. nuts,
  3. nuts about, be,
  4. nuts and bolts,
  5. nuts and bolts, the,
  6. nutso,
  7. nutsy,
  8. nutter,
  9. nutting,
  10. nutting, wallace


    in a nutshell, in very brief form; in a few words: Just tell me the story in a nutshell.

Origin of nutshell

1175–1225; Middle English nutescell; see nut, shell Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for in a nutshell


/ (ˈnʌtˌʃɛl) /


the shell around the kernel of a nut
in a nutshell in essence; briefly
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for in a nutshell



c.1200, nute-scalen; see nut + shell (n.). Figurative use with reference to "great condensation" (1570s) supposedly originally is a reference to a copy of the "Iliad," mentioned by Pliny, which was so small it could fit into the shell of a nut.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with in a nutshell

in a nutshell

Concisely, in a few words, as in Here's our proposal—in a nutshell, we want to sell the business to you. This hyperbolic expression alludes to the Roman writer Pliny's description of Homer's Iliad being copied in so tiny a hand that it could fit in a nutshell. For a time it referred to anything compressed, but from the 1500s on it referred mainly to written or spoken words.


see in a nutshell.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.