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What Does It Mean to "Go Nuts"?

Jim B.
Jim B.

"Go nuts" is an English idiom that is usually used in reference to someone who gets extremely excited over something. This may occur in terms of a person getting agitated, or can also refer to someone who does something with complete abandon. Another popular way that "go nuts" is used is when someone is describing someone who has had a mental breakdown and gone insane. The origin of the phrase may be related to the slang usage of the word "nut" as a way of saying "head," or it could have been based on the way that monkeys react wildly when they are given nuts.

When someone is speaking English, he or she may at times use phrases that mean something entirely different that what they might have meant when they were first used. These phrases are called idioms, which gain their accepted meanings from usage over a long period of time in a culture. Many of these phrases are colorful and expressive and allow for speakers to spice up their daily conversations. One idiomatic expression that has been around for a great while is the phrase "go nuts."

Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

This phrase can be used in a number of different ways. In most cases, it refers to someone who gets significantly excited in response to some turn of events. For example, someone might say, "If I hear that my kids are up to something no good, I am really going to go nuts." In that example, it hints at an agitated response on behalf of the speaker.

There may be times when the phrase is used to describe someone who decides to act without any restraint. In some cases, this is because the person gets permission to do so from the speaker. As an example of this, consider the sentence, "I really don't care how much money you spend; you can go nuts for all I care." When used this way, the phrase signals a complete lack of inhibition.

Yet another way this phrase can be used is in reference to someone who has some sort of incident that causes mental problems. Consider the sentence, "It was sad to see him go nuts in that way considering how brilliant he once was." This meaning of the phrase might come from the fact that it was once popular slang to call someone's head his "nut." Another possible explanation for the phrase comes from the way that monkeys behave overly excited whenever they are given nuts as a snack.

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Discussion Comments


@AnswerMan, I've heard "nuttier than a fruitcake" all of my life, too. I think "going nuts" is mostly a temporary mental condition. Once the trigger is gone, the nuttiness often goes away. A child may "go nuts" opening presents on Christmas morning, but then come back to his senses after they've all been opened or broken. "Going nuts" is more of a frenzy than anything else.


I've also heard a crazy person described as a "nutjob" or "nutcase", so the connection to mental illness seems pretty convincing. I've also heard a person who loses his mind as being "off his nut".

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