in a nutshell


the shell of a nut.
in a nutshell, in very brief form; in a few words: Just tell me the story in a nutshell.

1175–1225; Middle English nutescell; see nut, shell Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To in a nutshell
World English Dictionary
nutshell (ˈnʌtˌʃɛl)
1.  the shell around the kernel of a nut
2.  in a nutshell in essence; briefly

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
Cite This Source
Word Origin & History

c.1200, nute-scalen; see nut + shell. Figurative use with reference to "great condensation" (1570s) is in allusion to a copy of the Iliad, mentioned by Pliny, which was so small it could fit into the shell of a nut.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

in a nutshell

Concisely, in a few words, as in Here's our proposalin a nutshell, we want to sell the business to you. This hyperbolic expression alludes to the Roman writer Pliny's description of Homer's Iliad being copied in so tiny a hand that it could fit in a nutshell. For a time it referred to anything compressed, but from the 1500s on it referred mainly to written or spoken words.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
Cite This Source
Copyright © 2014, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature