Intermediate+ Word of the Day: nut

nut (noun, verb) /nʌt/ LISTEN

Squirrels are known for being nuts about nuts.

A nut is a dry fruit consisting of an edible kernel, enclosed in a woody shell. The kernel itself is also called a nut. A nut is also a metal block with a threaded hole allowing it to be screwed down on a bolt to hold the objects the bolt passes through together. Colloquially, if you say someone is a nut, preceded by a noun, it means that he or she is really enthusiastic about that thing. As a slang term, you call someone foolish or crazy a nut. In UK English, informally, nut is used as a verb, meaning ‘to headbutt (to strike with the head) someone.’

Example sentences

  • Diana cracked the shell of the nut and ate the kernel.
  • I put a bowl of nuts on the table for people to eat with their drinks.
  • Eugene screwed the nuts onto the bolts and made sure they were tight.
  • Ben is a theater nut; he goes to at least two shows every week.
  • Look at that guy dancing on the tables; what a nut!
  • The drunk guy was getting a bit too familiar, so Catriona nutted him.

Words often used with nut

a hard nut to crack, a tough nut to crack: a difficult problem or something difficult to do. Example: “Modernizing policing methods to tackle cybercrime and online abuse is proving a hard nut to crack.” You can also use this expression to refer to a person who is difficult to understand or difficult to persuade to do something. Example: “Karen is sucking up to the boss to get a raise, but he’s a tough nut to crack.”

off your nut: crazy. Example: “You want to quit your well-paid job to write a novel, when you’ve never written anything other than a shopping list before? You must be off your nut!”

drive someone nuts: irritate or frustrate someone. Example: “The neighbors’ dog keeps yapping and it’s driving me nuts!”

go nuts: go wild, go crazy. Example: “You’ve been working hard lately, why don’t you have a night out with your friends; go a little nuts for a change?”

In pop culture

Of course, the world would be quite a boring place if people weren’t at least a little nutty at times. That’s the subject of this song by Johnny Cash; it’s called “Everybody Loves a Nut”:

Additional information

The related adjective nuts means ‘crazy’ or ‘very enthusiastic about something.’

Did you know?

As a vulgar slang term, usually in the plural, nuts are testicles.

Other forms

nuts (adjective), nutty (adjective), nutshell (noun)

One final fact

You can also use the term nutcase to refer to someone who is crazy or, in UK English, you can also say nutter.


Nut dates back to before the year 900. The Old English hnutu (pronounced with a very soft h), meant ‘hard seed’ (especially one that was edible), and can be traced back to the Proto-Germanic root hnut– and the Proto-Indo-European root kneu– (nut). It is related to the Old Norse hnot, the Dutch noot, the Old High German hnuz, the German Nuss, the Latin nux, the French noix and the Spanish nuez (among others), all meaning ‘nut,’ as well as a few other words with related, figurative meanings, such as nucleus. The metallic piece used to fasten a bolt has been called a nut since the early 17th century, and nuts has been used as slang for testicles since the early 20th century. The slang use of nut to mean ‘head’ first appeared in the mid-19th century, and gave rise to the adjective nuts, meaning ‘crazy,’ as well as the noun sense of ‘crazy person,’ in the early 20th century, and the UK verb meaning ‘to headbutt someone.’ Nutter, in UK English, appeared in the 17th century, but meant ‘person who gathers nuts.’ Its slang meaning dates back to the mid-20th century.

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