See more synonyms for kernel on
  1. the softer, usually edible part contained in the shell of a nut or the stone of a fruit.
  2. the body of a seed within its husk or integuments.
  3. a whole seed grain, as of wheat or corn.
  4. South Atlantic States. the pit or seed of a peach, cherry, plum, etc.
  5. the central or most important part of anything; essence; gist; core: His leadership is the kernel of the organization.
  6. Mathematics. the set of elements that a given function from one set to a second set maps into the identity of the second set.
  7. Also called rumpf. Physical Chemistry. the remainder of an atom after the valence electrons have been removed.
verb (used with object), ker·neled, ker·nel·ing or (especially British) ker·nelled, ker·nel·ling.
  1. to enclose as a kernel.

Origin of kernel

before 1000; Middle English kirnel, Old English cyrnel, diminutive of corn seed, corn1
Related formsker·nel·less, adjectiveker·nel·ly, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Historical Examples of kernel

British Dictionary definitions for kernel


  1. the edible central part of a seed, nut, or fruit within the shell or stone
  2. the grain of a cereal, esp wheat, consisting of the seed in a hard husk
  3. the central or essential part of something
verb -nels, -nelling or -nelled or US -nels, -neling or -neled
  1. (intr) rare to form kernels
Derived Formskernel-less, adjective

Word Origin for kernel

Old English cyrnel a little seed, from corn seed; see corn 1
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 kernel

Old English cyrnel "seed, kernel, pip," from Proto-Germanic *kurnilo- (cf. Middle High German kornel, Middle Dutch cornel), from the root of corn "seed, grain" (see corn (n.1)) + -el, diminutive suffix. Figurative sense of "core or central part of anything" is from 1550s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

kernel in Science


  1. A grain or seed, as of a cereal grass, enclosed in a husk.
  2. The inner, usually edible seed of a nut or fruit stone.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.