Idiom: In a nutshell

A female cartoon character inside a walnut shell reading from a sheet of paper to illustrate the idiom, in a nutshell.

Idiom: in a nutshell

The woman in the picture above is sitting inside a nutshell.  Can you guess what the idiom 'in a nutshell' means?

In a nutshell:   a brief / short summary of something.


The woman is inside a nutshell — the shell (outer part) of a nut (a small dry fruit that grows on trees or bushes). She's holding a paper and reading something.

Since the shell of a nut is so small any paper you could fit inside it would also have to be very small — so you'd only be able to write a few words or a brief summary of something.

Sentence examples

  • In a nutshell, my parents grounded me for five weeks after they caught me smoking behind the house.
  • I'm sorry to interrupt you but could you please give us your point in a nutshell?
  • It's a long and complicated story but in a nutshell, we're just barely going to make our financial targets this quarter.
  • I told my mother that, in a nutshell, my boyfriend cheated on me with my best friend and instead of just comforting me she wanted to know all the sordid details.
  • In a nutshell, we're going to have to close the company. Unfortunately, we won't be able to give further details until the end of the week.
  • We've just got five minutes left so does anyone want to give us their update in a nutshell?
  • In a nutshell, my client is innocent and we look forward to proving this during the trial.
  • I'm sorry but you cannot just answer the essay with the facts in a nutshell—you then have to explain how you used those facts to reach your conclusion.
  • For once, can you please give us the story In a nutshell?  We just need the important facts.
  • In a nutshell, you're fired. Please pack up your desk and leave now.
  • A:  “The dog ate your homework?”  B:  “In a nutshell, yes.”
  • It was the most boring movie I’ve ever seen. In a nutshell:  girl meets boy, falls in love, and they live happily ever after.
  • In a nutshell, we're putting you on probation. You've been late every day for two weeks and we need a reliable receptionist.

Comic strip with a male office worker showing another a huge mathematical equation on the side of wall, which he says is his marketing plan in a nutshell and asks if there are any questions.

Did you like the comic?  I'm not sure that a coconut shell would even be big enough to hold that marketing plan!

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Your turn to practice

It's practice time. In a nutshell, your English is not going to improve much if you just read and don't practice writing your own sentences. Try to use this idiom in the comments below and I'll write feedback and correct any mistakes you might make. 

> > Idiom: in a nutshell

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