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chestnut (n.)

type of tall tree native to western Asia, southern Europe, and eastern U.S., also the large "nut" that it produces, 1560s, from chesten nut (1510s), with superfluous nut (n.) + Middle English chasteine, from Old French chastain (12c., Modern French châtaigne), from Latin castanea "chestnut, chestnut tree," from Greek kastaneia, which the Greeks explained as either "nut from Castanea" in Pontus, or "nut from Castana" in Thessaly, but probably both places are named for the trees, not the other way around, and the word is borrowed from a language of Asia Minor (compare Armenian kask "chestnut," kaskeni "chestnut tree"). In reference to the dark reddish-brown color, 1650s. Applied to the horse-chestnut by 1832.

Slang sense of "venerable joke or story" is from 1885, explained by U.S. actor Joseph Jefferson ("Lippincott's Monthly Magazine," January 1888) as probably abstracted from the 1816 melodrama "The Broken Sword" by William Dimond where an oft-repeated story involving a chestnut tree figures in an exchange between the characters "Captain Zavior" and "Pablo":

Zav. Let me see—aye! it is exactly six years since, that peace being restored to Spain, and my ship paid off, my kind brother offer'd me a snug hammock in the dwelling of my forefathers;—I mounted a mule at Barcelona, and trotted away for my native mountains. At the dawn of the fourth day's journey, I entered the wood of Collares, when, suddenly from the thick boughs of a cork-tree—
Pab. [Jumping up.] A chesnut, Captain, a chesnut!
Zav. Bah! you booby, I say, a cork.
Pab. And I swear, a chesnut—Captain! this is the twenty-seventh time I have heard you relate this story, and you invariably said, a chesnut, till now.
Zav. Did I? Well, a chesnut be it then. But, take your seat again.

Jefferson traced the connection through William Warren (1812-1888), "the veteran comedian of Boston" (and Jefferson's cousin) who often played Pablo in the melodrama.

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horse-chestnut (n.)
1590s, from horse (n.) + chestnut. A tree probably native to Asia, introduced in England c. 1550; the name also was extended to similar North American species such as the buckeye. Said to have been so called because it was food for horses, "but this is appar. a mere guess" [Century Dictionary] and the sense is perhaps "large," as in horseradish. The nut resembles that of the edible chestnut but is bitter to the taste.
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castanet (n.)

usually castanets, "slightly concave shells of ivory or hard wood, fastened and used in beating time in music or dancing," 1640s, from French castagnette or directly from Spanish castañeta diminutive of castaña "chestnut," from Latin castanea (see chestnut).

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maroon (n.)

"very dark red or crimson color," 1791 (marone), from French couleur marron, the color of a marron "chestnut," the large sweet chestnut of southern Europe (maroon in that sense was used in English from 1590s), from the dialect of Lyons, ultimately from a word in a pre-Roman language, perhaps Ligurian; or from Greek maraon "sweet chestnut."

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conker (n.)

"snail shell" (said to date from 1847), also "horse chestnut" (said to date from 1886), both said to be from children's game of conkers (q.v.).

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chinkapin (n.)

also chincapin, chinquapin, "small tree or shrub of eastern U.S., bearing a nut like the chestnut," 1610s, from < chechinquamins >, a word in a central Atlantic coast Algonquian language, 

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buckeye (n.)
also buck-eye, "American horse-chestnut tree," 1763, said to be so called from resemblance of the nut to a stag's eye (see buck (n.1) + eye (n.)). Meaning "native of Ohio" is attested since 1822, from the great number of such trees growing there. Used figuratively in early 20c. of anything cheap or inferior.
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roan (adj.)

1520s, of horses, "of a bay, sorrel, or chestnut color, thickly interspersed with gray or white, from French roan "reddish brown," perhaps from Spanish roano, from Old Spanish raudano, probably from a Germanic source (compare Gothic raudan, accusative of rauðs "red"), from PIE root *reudh- "red, ruddy." As a noun, "a roan horse," 1570s.

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bay (adj.)
"reddish-brown," usually of horses, mid-14c., from Anglo-French bai (13c.), Old French bai, from Latin badius "chestnut-brown" (used only of horses), from PIE root *badyo- "yellow, brown" (source also of Old Irish buide "yellow"). As a noun, elliptical for a horse of this color.
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baize (n.)
coarse woolen fabric with a nap on one side, dyed in plain colors, 1570s, bayse, from French baies, fem. plural of adjective bai "bay-colored" (12c.), from Latin badius "chestnut-colored" (see bay (n.4)). Thus probably so called for its original color. French plural taken as a singular in English.
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