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What's the difference between kernel and core?

The more I look for a difference between both, the more confused I get.

I know both nouns because of IT, but I'm looking for the actual roots in actual English, not technical lingo. It seems to be used for the central fruit parts, but are they interchangeable? Does it depend on which fruit we are talking about?

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Am I the only one who was very confused by this question because I thought it was about the OS kernels and CPU cores? – Andreas Bonini Jun 30 '11 at 15:13
up vote 12 down vote accepted

"Kernel" is the soft, edible part of a nut. "Kernels" refer specifically to nuts:

the softer, usually edible part contained in the shell of a nut or the stone of a fruit.
the body of a seed within its husk or integuments.

"Core" for fruits refers to the central part of a fruit that contains the seeds i.e. The core of an apple e.g. He threw the core of the apple away.

So, basically, "kernel" is used when referring to nuts, and "core" is used when referring to fruits.

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I think the OP was talking about the sofware kernel/core, which although does not render your answer incorrect, but probably asks for an expanded answer. Unless I'm wrong, that is. – RiMMER Jun 30 '11 at 10:12
the Op : "...It seems to be used for the central fruit parts, but are they interchangeable? Does it depend on which fruit we are talking about? – Thursagen Jun 30 '11 at 10:14
the OP: "...but I'm looking for the actual roots in actual English, not technical lingo – Thursagen Jun 30 '11 at 10:14
How does a kernel of corn fit this definition (out of curiosity)? – Kit Z. Fox Jun 30 '11 at 10:38
Metaphorically, the core is what is central, essential, the heart of the matter. The kernel is is the germ, the seed, carrying the potential to generate a new whole. – Brian Donovan Jun 20 '14 at 11:52

About unity of core kernel concept: "My theory concisely is expressed by this formulation: “Core kernel, through its transformation, makes the earth our dynamic earth. The earth core is a wraped dynamic star-like sun in miniature, while the sun is a gigantic bar core.”

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I am using both core and kernel as components of wholeness at example of the peach fruit having inside the core (stone) and inside the core its soft kernel. While a nut is a core bare from pulp having inside the kernels. Siliarly I have used the concept of core and kernel in my theory of The Growing and Developing Earth. A formulation, linked to this, was done so: "What we say about the peach core and its kernel if we known only its rind and a litle about its pulp, so as the peach is formed by its kernel inside its core, just even Earth is maid the Earth by transformation of its kernel inside its core, defined by me core kernel

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According to Etymonline.com

kernel O.E. cyrnel, from P.Gmc. *kurnilo- (cf. M.H.G. kornel, M.Du. cornel), from the root of corn "seed, grain" (see corn) + -el, dim. suffix. Figurative sense of "core or central part of anything" is from 1550s.


core (n.) late 14c., probably from O.Fr. coeur "core of fruit, heart of lettuce," lit. "heart," from L. cor "heart," from PIE base *kerd- "heart" (see heart).

So, to get to the heart of the matter here, the core meaning of kernel is that it is a "core" of something, and "core" comes from a word meaning "heart" — which is another way of referring to the center of something. Nevertheless, kernel apparently has its origins in grain, while core was used first with fruit. Either way, there is no clear distinction to draw between the two except in IT, where core has come to refer to a discrete CPU within a larger CPU cluster, and kernel has come to refer to that irreducible piece of core software that comprises an operating system, without which it could not operate.

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The kernel is the softer, edible part of, for example, a nut, or a seed.
The core is the tough central part of various fruits (e.g. the apple), containing the seeds.

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