- any of the several deciduous trees constituting the genus Castanea, of the beech family, having toothed, oblong leaves and bearing edible nuts enclosed in a prickly bur, and including C. dentata (American chestnut), which has been virtually destroyed by the chestnut blight, C. sativa (European chestnut), C. mollissima (Chinese chestnut), and C. crenata (Japanese chestnut).
- the edible nut of such a tree.
- the wood of any of these trees.
- any fruit or tree resembling the chestnut, as the horse chestnut.
- reddish brown.
- an old or stale joke, anecdote, etc.
- the callosity on the inner side of the leg of a horse.
- a reddish-brown horse having the mane and tail of the same color.Compare bay5(def 2).
- Also called liver chestnut. a horse of a solid, dark-brown color.
- being reddish-brown in color.
- (of food) containing or made with chestnuts: turkey with chestnut stuffing.
- pull someone’s chestnuts out of the fire, to rescue someone from a difficulty.
- any N temperate fagaceous tree of the genus Castanea, such as C. sativa (sweet or Spanish chestnut), which produce flowers in long catkins and nuts in a prickly burCompare horse chestnut, water chestnut, dwarf chestnut
- the edible nut of any of these trees
- the hard wood of any of these trees, used in making furniture, etc
- a reddish-brown to brown colour
- (as adjective)chestnut hair
- a horse of a yellow-brown or golden-brown colour
- a small horny callus on the inner surface of a horse’s leg
- informal an old or stale joke
1560s, from chesten nut (1510s), with superfluous nut (n.) + Middle English chasteine, from Old French chastain (12c., Modern French châtaigne), from Latin castanea “chestnut, chestnut tree,” from Greek kastaneia, which the Greeks thought meant either “nut from Castanea” in Pontus, or “nut from Castana” in Thessaly, but probably both places are named for the trees, not the other way around, and the word is borrowed from a language of Asia Minor (cf. Armenian kask “chestnut,” kaskeni “chestnut tree”). In reference to the dark reddish-brown color, 1650s. Applied to the horse-chestnut by 1832.
Slang sense of “venerable joke or story” is from 1885, explained 1888 by Joseph Jefferson (see “Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine,” January 1888) as probably abstracted from the 1816 melodrama “The Broken Sword” by William Dimond where an oft-repeated story involving a chestnut tree figures in an exchange between the characters “Captain Zavior” and “Pablo”:
Zav. Let me see–ay! it is exactly six years since that peace being restored to Spain, and my ship paid off, my kind brother offered me a snug hammock in the dwelling of my forefathers. I mounted a mule at Barcelona and trotted away for my native mountains. At the dawn of the fourth day’s journey, I entered the wood of Collares, when, suddenly, from the thick boughs of a cork-tree–
Pab. [Jumping up.] A chesnut, Captain, a chesnut!
Zav. Bah, you booby! I say, a cork!
Pab. And I swear, a chesnut. Captain, this is the twenty-seventh time 1 have heard you relate this story, and you invariably said, a chesnut, till now.
Jefferson traced the connection through William Warren, “the veteran comedian of Boston” who often played Pablo in the melodrama.
see old chestnut.