What does the idiom "in a nutshell" mean?

Idioms are generally defined as groups of words that form a meaningful whole when they come together, even though the words in them do not make sense on their own. They have produced many idioms according to their own cultural characteristics in communities using the English language. What does in a nutshell mean? In what situations is in a nutshell used?

Meaning of "in a nutshell"


The phrase "in a nutshell" is an idiom that is used to mean briefly or in a few words. It is used to suggest that an explanation can be provided in a concise manner or that a plan or situation can be summarized quickly and easily.


The phrase "in a nutshell" dates back to the 16th century and is thought to have originated from the Latin phrase "in nutu," which literally translates to "in a nut." Over time, the phrase has evolved to become the English idiom we use today.

The phrase is thought to have originated from the ancient practice of storing scrolls or documents in a hollowed out walnut. This practice was popular in the 16th century, as walnut shells were believed to be a unique and secure way to store information.


The phrase "in a nutshell" is used to summarize a situation or explain a concept in a concise manner. It is often used in the context of providing an overview of a topic quickly and effectively.

The phrase can be used in both formal and informal settings. It is commonly used in speech, business meetings, and in writing.

Example Sentences

  • In a nutshell, the project needs more resources in order to be completed on time.
  • The proposal can be explained in a nutshell - we want to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
  • Let me explain it to you in a nutshell - the survey will take about two hours to complete.
  • To sum up the meeting in a nutshell, we need more time to finalize the plans.

The meanings of the words in the "in a nutshell" idiom

The Surprising Origins of Everyday English Idioms

Many English idioms have surprisingly dark origins, often rooted in violence, death, and superstition. For instance, the phrase "raining cats and dogs" is said to have originated in the 17th century, when heavy rain would often cause dead animals to wash up on the streets. Meanwhile, the idiom "rule of thumb" is believed to have originated from a law that allowed men to beat their wives with a stick no thicker than their thumb.


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