1. A grain or seed, as of a cereal grass, enclosed in a husk.
2. The usually edible seed inside the hard covering of a nut or fruit stone.
a. The central or most important part; the core: "The kernel of his practical religion was that it was respectable, and beneficial to one's business, to be seen going to services" (Sinclair Lewis).
b. A small amount of something, especially when potentially developing into something else: detected a kernel of anger in his remarks.
[Middle English, from Old English cyrnel; see gə-no- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.