Definition of chestnut in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈCHes(t)ˌnət/


1 (also sweet chestnut) A glossy brown nut that may be roasted and eaten.
Example sentences
  • Some authors have suggested that their flavour and texture are comparable with those of the chestnut or cashew nut.
  • Almost equally invigorating is a poached chicken, sliced into strips atop a mound of basmati rice but bathed in a potion of tarragon and chestnuts.
  • And I can't really tell you how it was made, as I spent the entire recipe-making time chopping walnuts and chestnuts, sneaking teeny bits in every now and then.
2 (also chestnut tree, sweet chestnut, or Spanish chestnut) The large European tree that produces the edible chestnut, which develops within a bristly case, with serrated leaves and heavy timber.
  • Castanea sativa, family Fagaceae.
Example sentences
  • Greece originally introduced the chestnut tree to the rest of the European community.
  • As she got nearer she saw him shaded from the sun by the leaves of the chestnut tree.
  • One damaged chestnut tree and five mature conifers had to be removed.
2.1 (also American chestnut) A related tree (C. dentata), which succumbed to a fungus bark disease in the early 1900s. Once prolific in the eastern US, very few large specimens survived.
Example sentences
  • He cites the classic case of the American chestnut, once a dominant tree in many eastern hardwood forests.
  • The American chestnut was once the most common canopy tree in the deciduous forests of the eastern United States.
  • Several seedlings of American chestnut also are present.
2.2 (also Chinese chestnut) A related tree (C. mollissima) native to China and Korea, cultivated elsewhere for its edible nut. The flowers have a putrid odor.
Example sentences
  • The Chinese chestnut, C. mollissima, has been cultivated in China for at least as long as its European counterpart, and used in much the same way: dried, roasted, or made into meal.
2.3 short for horse chestnut.
2.4Used in names of trees and plants that are related to the sweet chestnut or that produce similar nuts, e.g., water chestnut.
Example sentences
  • They also collected a broad variety of wild herbs, wild vegetables such as acorns, water chestnuts, and broad beans, and possibly wild rice.
  • In general, European chestnut trees haven't suffered as devastating an outbreak as their American cousins.
  • The European species of chestnut catches the disease, too, and early researchers noticed some Italian trees that seemed to have spontaneously recovered their health.
3A deep reddish-brown color: [as modifier]: chestnut hair
More example sentences
  • They had the same straight chestnut hair and deep green eyes.
  • She had a sweet smile, and her light olive skin went with deep, chestnut hair.
  • She flung her deep chestnut hair away from her eyes.
3.1A horse of a reddish-brown color, with a brown mane and tail.
Example sentences
  • Sharon rides Andy, a chestnut Quarter Horse who has never before experienced dressage.
  • Berndon was looking at a chestnut mare with a black mane and tail and took out some coins to pay for it.
  • The chestnut colt is the last foal out of Jewell Ridge, who died on August 1.
4A small horny patch on the inside of each of a horse’s legs.
Example sentences
  • The small chestnut patches on its shoulders are not always visible.



an old chestnut

A joke or story that has become tedious because of its age and constant repetition.
Example sentences
  • This is an old chestnut of a story, and like the previous similar surveys it has a huge flaw which undermines the result: you don't know if the respondents are telling the truth.
  • Another barrier comes tumbling down, as that old chestnut about the Germans never making a funny comedy has to be consigned to the history book.
  • In the past she has denied the old chestnut about women not being as funny as men but today she clearly can't be bothered fighting.

pull someone's chestnuts out of the fire

Succeed in a hazardous undertaking for someone else’s benefit.
With reference to the fable of a monkey using a cat's paw to extract roasting chestnuts from a fire
Example sentences
  • For example, we have pulled your chestnuts out of the fire in two world wars that were occasioned by European diplomacy.
  • I think it'll take more than him to pull their chestnuts out of the fire.
  • Whatever it takes to pull his chestnuts out of the fire in Virginia.


Early 16th century: from Old English chesten (from Old French chastaine, via Latin from Greek kastanea) + nut.

  • Chestnuts have nothing to do with chests—the ultimate source is the Greek word kastanea ‘chestnut’ (ultimate source also of the Spanish castanets (early 17th century), presumably from the shape). A frequently repeated joke or story is known as an old chestnut. First recorded in the 1880s, the phrase probably comes from a play called The Broken Sword, written by William Dimond in 1816. In one scene a character called Zavior is in the throes of telling a story: ‘When suddenly from the thick boughs of a cork tree—’. At this point he is interrupted by another character, Pablo, who says: ‘A chestnut, Captain, a chestnut…Captain, this is the twenty-seventh time I have heard you relate this story, and you invariably said, a chestnut, till now.’

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: chest·nut

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