In the eighteenth century, sweet ginger-flavoured biscuits were known as gingerbread nuts (‘We beg the receipt of your gingerbread nuts,’ wrote Joseph Jekyll in a letter dated 1775). Around the middle of the nineteenth century, however, gingerbread nut was superseded by ginger nut. The element nut presumably refers to the biscuits' smallness and roundness (ginger nuts seem originally to have been smaller than their twentieth-century descendants). It also appears in spice nut, a now obsolete synonym for ginger nut (‘to induce you to purchase half a pound of the real spice nuts,’ Charles Dickens, Sketches by Boz, 1836), and of course in doughnut. The nearest American equivalent is called a ginger snap.
Subjects: Cookery, Food, and Drink.