[19] A conker was originally a ‘snail shell’. Small boys tied them on to pieces of string and played a game involving trying to break their opponent’s shell (another method of playing was simply to press two shells together and see which one broke). The first record of the use of horse chestnuts instead of snail shells is from the 1880s, but in the succeeding century this has established itself as the word’s sole application. It is not entirely clear where it originally came from. The connection with molluscs has inevitably suggested a derivation from conch (itself ultimately from Greek kónkhē), but early 19th-century spellings of the game as conquering, and of conker as conqueror, point to a simpler explanation, that the stronger snail shell defeated, or ‘conquered’, the weaker.

The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins. 2013.

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  • conker — ► NOUN Brit. 1) the hard shiny dark brown nut of a horse chestnut tree. 2) (conkers) (treated as sing. ) a children s game in which each has a conker on a string and tries to break another s with it. ORIGIN dialect, «snail shell» (with which the… …   English terms dictionary

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  • conker — [[t]kɒ̱ŋkə(r)[/t]] conkers 1) N COUNT Conkers are round brown nuts which come from horse chestnut trees. [BRIT] 2) N UNCOUNT Conkers is a children s game in which you tie a conker to a piece of string and try to break your opponent s conker by… …   English dictionary

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  • conker — UK [ˈkɒŋkə(r)] / US [ˈkɑŋkər] noun Word forms conker : singular conker plural conkers British 1) [countable] the large shiny brown seed of the horse chestnut tree 2) conkers [uncountable] a children s game in which players try to hit and break… …   English dictionary

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