I have only found the usage of "nooks and crannies", but no references to the "crannies and nooks" anywhere. Can I reverse them and use it ? Thanks

  • 5
    You can say whatever you like, e.g. "white and black" instead of the usual "black and white"; turvy-topsy, span and spic, bottom to top etc. but the reverse order will always be understood better and will always sound "better" to native ears.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 10, 2019 at 5:43
  • 4
    That's an example of an irreversible binomial. See this question.
    – jsheeran
    May 10, 2019 at 6:56
  • To be even more provocative you could say ... "This has crannies but not nooks."
    – GEdgar
    May 10, 2019 at 10:16

2 Answers 2


Nook and cranny or its occasional plural is what is known as an irreversible binomial; that is, an expression composed of two words joined by a conjunction whose order and meaning have become fixed over time. To search for something in every nook and cranny means to search in every conceivable place. To use and understand the phrase, then, you don’t even need to know what a nook or cranny is.

Cranny, ‘small, narrow opening’, entered English from Old French crané, ‘notched, cut’ mid-15th century:

That yn at a crany a man myght loke;
Saue that yt ouerschadwyd was … John Metham, Amoryus and Cleopas, 1449.

… he had lost one of his eyes, with the which he peeping in at a crany of his chamber dore, saw the god in forme of a snake lye by his wife. — Thomas North, trans., Plutarch Lives, 1579. EEBO

While of uncertain origin, nook is still current — one thinks of the breakfast nook ubiquitous in American domestic architecture 1930s–1950s or an ingelnook by a fireplace. Cranny, however, is now almost never found outside this fixed expression.

In preparation for fast-daies, he would unbosom and unbowel himself before the lord: he did not only skim off the uppermost froth of his heart; but would search every nook and crany, and fetch up mud from the very bottom. — John Murcot, Several Works, 1657. EEBO

She was so circumspect and cool,
Each nook and cranny she survey’d;
She even examin’d the close-stool,
But Dick was in the closet laid. — John Hall-Stevenson, “Captain Shadow’s Tale,” Crazy Tales; and Fables for Grown Gentlemen, 1780, 39.

So if you wish to speak or write idiomatic English, you won’t reverse the order to *cranny and nook unless you have a particular reason that’s going to make sense to your audience.

  • To add to this answer, this sort of device, of using idioms but not getting them quite right, is often used by writers (comic writers in particular) to demonstrate that the speaker's native language is not English. So, if your character says "I'm searching every cranny and nook" it will likely make the reader think that perhaps English isn't their first language. This may or may not be desirable. May 10, 2019 at 13:15
  • I'd wager that crannies and nooks is even rarer than crooks and nannies.
    – tchrist
    May 10, 2019 at 23:37

Yes you can and people do.

From ngrams, "nooks and crannies" is by far the most popular term but "crannies and nooks" also occurs in all manner of books.

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