Etymology
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Words related to nut

nucleus (n.)

1704, "kernel of a nut;" 1708, "head of a comet;" from Latin nucleus "kernel," from nucula "little nut," diminutive of nux (genitive nucis) "nut," from PIE *kneu- "nut" (source also of Middle Irish cnu, Welsh cneuen, Middle Breton knoen "nut," Old Norse hnot, Old English hnutu "nut").

The general sense of "central mass or thing, about which others cluster or matter collects," is from 1762. In biology, "dense, typically rounded structure in a cell, bounded by membranes," from 1831. Later they were found to contain the genetic material. Modern meaning in physics, "positively charged central core of an atom," is from 1912, by Ernest Rutherford, though theoretical use for "central point of an atom" is from 1844, in Faraday.

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nuts (adj.)

"crazy, not right in the head," 1846, from earlier colloquial or slang be nuts on "be very fond of" (1785), which is possibly from nuts (plural noun) "any source of pleasure or delight" (1610s), from nut (q.v.). Nuts as a special treat or favorite foodstuff led to other figurative phrases, now obsolete. The "crazy" sense probably has been influenced by metaphoric application of nut to "head" (1846, as in to be off one's nut "be insane," 1860). Also compare nutty. Nuts as a derisive retort is attested from 1931.

Connection with the slang "testicles" sense has tended to nudge the word toward taboo territory. "On the N.B.C. network, it is forbidden to call any character a nut; you have to call him a screwball." [New Yorker, Dec. 23, 1950] "Please eliminate the expression 'nuts to you' from Egbert's speech." [Request from the Hays Office regarding the script of "The Bank Dick," 1940] This desire for avoidance probably accounts for the euphemism nerts (c. 1925).

butternut (n.)
also butter-nut, 1753, nut of the white walnut, a North American tree; transferred to the tree itself from 1783, from butter (n.) + nut (n.). So called from the oil it contains.

The dye made from the tree's inner bark was yellowish-brown, and the word was used (from 1861) to describe the Southern army troops in the American Civil War, but the exact reason is debatable. Many Southern uniforms seem to have been this color; perhaps butternut dye was extensively used in homemade uniforms (but the tree's natural range is mostly in the northeastern U.S.); perhaps some of the regulation gray uniforms faded or soiled to this color; perhaps it was because butternut was a nickname for Southerners in the Midwestern states.
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.

coconut (n.)

1610s, "fruit of the tropical palm tree," from coco + nut. In reference to the dried, shredded flesh of the nut used in cookery and confections, by 1830. Meaning "the head" is slang from 1834. Coconut-oil is attested from 1829.

doughnut (n.)

"small, spongy cake made of dough and fried in lard," 1809, American English, from dough + nut (n.), probably on the notion of being a small round lump (the holes came later; they are first mentioned c. 1861). First recorded by Washington Irving, who described them as "balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog's fat, and called doughnuts, or olykoeks."

Earlier name for it was dough-boy (1680s). Bartlett (1848) meanwhile lists doughnuts and crullers among the types of olycokes, a word he derives from Dutch olikoek, literally "oil-cake," to indicate a cake fried in lard.

The ladies of Augusta, Maine, set in operation and carried out a novel idea, namely, the distribution of over fifty bushels of doughnuts to the Third volunteer regiment of that State. A procession of ladies, headed by music, passed between double lines of troops, who presented arms, and were afterwards drawn up in hollow square to receive from tender and gracious hands the welcome doughnation. [Frazar Kirkland, "Anecdotes of the Rebellion," 1866]

Meaning "a driving in tight circles" is U.S. slang, 1981. Compare also donut.

hazelnut (n.)
also hazel-nut, Old English hæselhnutu; see hazel + nut. Similar formation in Dutch hazelnoot, Old High German hasalnuz, German Haselnuss.
nerd (n.)
1951, U.S. student slang, probably an alteration of 1940s slang nert "stupid or crazy person," itself an alteration of nut. The word turns up in a Dr. Seuss book from 1950 ("If I Ran the Zoo"), which may have contributed to its rise.
nut-cracker (n.)

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."

nuthatch (n.)

type of small bird living in holes in trees, mid-14c. (early 13c. as a surname), note-hach, probably so called from its habit of breaking open and eating nuts; from nut (n.) + second element related to hack (v.) and hatchet.