Korean Pine nuts — shelled, and shell, above; unshelled, below

A nutshell is the outer shell of a nut. Most nutshells are inedible and are removed before eating the nut meat inside.



Most nutshells are useful to some extent, depending on the circumstances. Walnut shells can be used for cleaning and polishing, as a filler in dynamite, and as a paint thickening agent.[1] Shells from pecans, almonds, Brazil nuts, acorns, and most other nuts (with the exception of peanuts) are useful in composting.[2] There is a method for preparing peanuts to be composted, requiring altering the levels of nitrogen and carbon.[3]

Shells can also be used as loose-fill packing material, to protect fragile items in shipping.

Idiomatic usage

The expression "in a nutshell" (of a story, proof, etc.) means "in essence", metaphorically alluding to the fact that the essence of the nut - its edible part - is contained inside its shell. The expression further gave rise to the journalism term nut graph, short for nutshell paragraph.

A likely source of the phrase may be found in Shakespeare's Hamlet (Act 2, Scene 2) where the title character exclaims: "O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count my selfe a King of infinite space".

Long before modern electronics, a few scholars made attempts at condensing massive literary works so they could be more easily stored. It became an obsession to some to see just how small they could write. For example, a copy of the Quran was reduced on a parchment measuring four inches by half an inch. These copies were so small it was said they could be stored in a nutshell.[4]

See also

  • Cashew nutshell liquid


  1. ^ "Walnuts as a filler in dynamite, thickening agent, and polisher.", Wikipedia Walnut Article, accessed November 07, 2010.
  2. ^ "Composting Nut shells.", GardenWeb, accessed November 07, 2010.
  3. ^ "How to Compost Peanut Shells", Garden Guides, Heidi Braley, January 2, 2010, accessed November 07, 2010.
  4. ^ "Where Did the Expression “In a Nutshell” Originate and What Does the Idiom Mean?", Big Site of Amazing Facts, September 23, 2010, accessed November 07, 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Nutshell — Nut shell , n. 1. The shell or hard external covering in which the kernel of a nut is inclosed. [1913 Webster] 2. Hence, a thing of little compass, or of little value. [1913 Webster] 3. (Zo[ o]l.) A shell of the genus Nucula. [1913 Webster] {in a …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • nutshell — ► NOUN ▪ the hard woody covering around the kernel of a nut. ● in a nutshell Cf. ↑in a nutshell …   English terms dictionary

  • nutshell — [nut′shel΄] n. the shell enclosing the kernel of a nut in a nutshell in brief or concise form; in a few words …   English World dictionary

  • Nutshell — est la 2e piste du troisième album (Jar of Flies) de Alice in Chains, qui signifie coquille en français. Les paroles racontent le désespoir et la solitude d un homme qui à la fin de la chanson préfère mourir plutôt que de ne plus être lui même.… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • nutshell — (n.) c.1200, nute scalen; see NUT (Cf. nut) + SHELL (Cf. 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… …   Etymology dictionary

  • nutshell — n. (colloq.) brief form in a nutshell (to put smt. in a nutshell) ( to state smt. very succinctly ) * * * [ nʌtʃel] (colloq.) [ brief form ] in a nutshell ( to state smt. very succinctly ; to put smt. in a nutshell) …   Combinatory dictionary

  • nutshell — [[t]nʌ̱tʃel[/t]] PHRASE: usu PHR with cl You can use in a nutshell to indicate that you are saying something in a very brief way, using few words. In a nutshell, the owners thought they knew best... This, in a nutshell, is what Richard Chaplin… …   English dictionary

  • nutshell — UK [ˈnʌtˌʃel] / US noun [countable] Word forms nutshell : singular nutshell plural nutshells the hard shell around a nut • in a nutshell …   English dictionary

  • nutshell — /nut shel /, n. 1. the shell of a nut. 2. in a nutshell, in very brief form; in a few words: Just tell me the story in a nutshell. [1175 1225; ME nutescell; see NUT, SHELL] * * * …   Universalium

  • nutshell — nut|shell [ˈnʌt ʃel] n 1.) in a nutshell used when you are stating the main facts about something in a short, clear way ▪ Okay, that s our proposal in a nutshell. Any questions? 2.) the hard outer part of a nut …   Dictionary of contemporary English

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