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Meaning of Nutshell

October 31, 2009

The phrase ‘in a nutshell’ refers to something that is put forth in a concise manner. It basically means to summarise something and present it in as few words as necessary to understand the matter. It is the equivalent of the phrase, “to make a long story short”. This means that only the central theme or the gist of the story is told, in order to save time. For example, “here’s my idea, in a nutshell, I want to have a joint venture with you”.

The phrase originated when Roman writer Pliny described Iliad, written by Homer that was copied in such a tiny hand that it was capable of fitting inside a nutshell. For some time after this phrase meant anything that was made smaller or compressed. Although from the 15th century onwards it started being applied only to written words or speech.

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