also nutcracker, "instrument used for cracking hard-shelled nuts," 1540s, from nut (n.) + agent noun from crack (v.). Hence also "toy having a grotesque human head, in the mouth of which a nut is placed to be cracked by a screw or lever." The ballet was first performed in 1892, based on Dumas père's rendition of E.T.A. Hoffmann's 1816 story "Nussknacker und Mausekönig."
updated on July 20, 2019