What is a Nut?

At CHS, we’re chock full o’ nuts; history nuts, that is. We’re so nutty about history, that I even began to wonder about the history of the word nuts. Finding the origin of nut(s) and the historical development of its meaning turned out to be a tougher nut to crack than I thought; but here it is, in a nutshell….nut, n. [nuht, nŭt]

-A type of hard seed that grows on trees and occasionally underground, the word nut is almost as old as language itself. It began with the prehistoric Indo-European root knu- ‘lump,’ which led to Latin nux and proto-Germanic khnut. From khnut sprung Middle Low German and Middle Dutch not ‘nut,’ Old High German nuz, hnuz, Old Norse hnot, and Old English hnutu, the latter first appearing around 700 C.E. By Middle English the second u was dropped as well as the silent h, creating nute by 1125. Interestingly, the plural for of this word, nuts, became an adjective used to describe something or someone who was crazy (“Wow, he’s nuts!”). This is first recorded in 1846 and is thought to be a shortening of the slightly earlier (1785) be nutts on ‘be very fond of,’ from the even earlier use of nuts as a plural noun describing any source of pleasure. How exactly nuts came to be associated with something pleasing is still unclear, however.

The word nut may be almost as old as language itself, but there’s nothing old about how we get down to the nuts and bolts of Connecticut history at CHS; we offer lots of fun and engaging ways to learn about the past, including shopping in our store.

  • Did you know the American Robin was designated the state bird in 1943?
  • robinThe European Praying Mantis was designated the Connecticut state insect in 1977. (Yes, that’s right, we have an official state insect!)mantis
  • The Connecticut Company was the primary electric street railway company in the Connecticut, operating both city and rural trolleys and freight service. We have jewelry, for both men and women, incorporating Connecticut Company tokens. CTcompany
  • Residents of the state are known as “Connecticuters”.CTnecklace

Whether you’re a true history nut or just looking for a special gift, we have a wide selection of unusual and unique items that suit all occasions, interests, and ages. Stop by – and go nuts!

Kathy Whitney is the Store Manager at the Connecticut Historical Society

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