coconut

Definitions

General English

  • noun a large nut from a type of palm tree

Food

  • The oval fruit (up to 20 cm long) of a tropical palm, Cocus nucifera, with an outer fibrous covering, an inner hard shell lined with a white crisp flesh about 6 mm thick and containing a white, sweet, translucent liquid
  • The inner lining of the coconut often shredded, grated and/or dried.

Slang

  • noun a non-white person who collaborates with the white establishment, an ‘Uncle Tom’. This expression, used by young Asians and blacks since the 1980s, refers to the idea that such people are, like the coconut, black on the outside but white on the inside. Bounty bar is an alternative.
  • noun one’s head. An obvious, but probably obsolescent usage.

Travel

  • noun a large nut from a tropical palm tree containing a white edible pulp

Origin & History of “coconut”

Despite its tropical origins, the coconut has a European name. The base of the coconut’s shell, with its three small holes, apparently reminded early Spanish and Portuguese explorers of a human face, so they called it coco; this was the Portuguese word for a grinning or grimacing face, as of a scarecrow. English adopted it in the 16th century, and it formed the basis of the compound coconut, first recorded in 1613. (before then the fruit of the coconut palm had been known as the Indian nut.).
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