Green’s Dictionary of Slang

nut house n.

[nut n.2 (1) + SE house]

1. (US) a mad person.

[UK]Nichols & Tully Twenty Below Act II: Go to sleep, you nut-house.
[UK]T. Black Gutted 2: ‘Right, y’bastards!,’ I wailed, like a nuthouse on meds night.

2. (orig. US, also nut hospital) a psychiatric institution.

[US]Day Book (Chicago) 27 July 30/1: If [the] Egyptian Queen was alive now she would be in [a] nut house.
[US]W.J. Schira diary 13 Dec. [Internet] My Ward is like a nut house. Always a bunch of men sneaking around and coming in to spoon with the nurses.
[US]Dos Passos Three Soldiers 88: ‘Say, Dook, your outfit was working with ours at Chamfort that time, wasn’t it?’ ‘You mean when we evacuated the nut hospital?’.
[US](con. 1917–18) C. MacArthur War Bugs 161: People have been put in the Nut House for less.
[US]J. James ‘Sweet Patuni’ in Oliver Screening the Blues (1968) 224: Nut-house is for crazy folks, folks got sense don’t go there.
[Aus]Sun (Sydney) 20 Oct. 15/2: Instead of having de Groot charged with a crime and making a big man of him, he bundles him into the nut house at Darlo.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 27: The nuthouse is the best place for you.
[Ire](con. 1940s) B. Behan Borstal Boy 44: I’d send you to a fughing nut-’ouse.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Mama Black Widow 216: I dare you to put me in the nut house.
[US]R. Price Ladies’ Man (1985) 131: A silent Japanese film about a nuthouse.
[US]D. Woodrell Muscle for the Wing 23: The trustee at the nut house gave me a tip.
[UK]I. Welsh Trainspotting 269: He never fucked me properly for ages, Laura told Spud, as if that was justification for getting him banged up in the nuthouse.
[US]Sun 26 June 48: Put Tyson in the nuthouse.
[UK]K. Richards Life 26: Mick Jagger had a summer job at the Bexley nuthouse.

3. attrib. use of sense 2.

[US]Minneapolis Jrnl (MN) 8 Oct. 50/2: [cartoon caption] De guy must be nut house puttin rats in er band box!
[US]Salt lake Herald Republican (UT) 17 Oct. 33/1: [cartoon caption] Who, me, climb up there? [...] You must be nut-house.
[US]I. Wolfert Tucker’s People (1944) 320: ‘You can frame it on a nuthouse wall,’ she said and laughed.
[US]‘William Lee’ Junkie (1966) 10: The nut-house doctors had never heard of Van Gogh. They put me down for schizophrenia.
[US] in T.I. Rubin Sweet Daddy 107: I’m no nut house hack.
[US]J. Crumley One to Count Cadence (1987) 21: I’ve handled you nut-house cases before.
[US]E. Bunker Little Boy Blue (1995) 118: Oh, you! The nuthouse kid.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 134: His men bracing armed robbers, nuthouse parolees.

4. (US) a chaotic place or situation, a fig. madhouse.

[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Young Manhood in Studs Lonigan (1936) 181: The Chicago loop was like a nuthouse on fire.
[US](con. 1948) G. Mandel Flee the Angry Strangers 362: Christ, it’s a lunatic asylum, it really is. It’s a nuthouse.
[UK]J. Osborne Look Back in Anger Act II: We’ll keep the old nut-house going somehow.
[US]M. Braly On the Yard (2002) 224: Time for me to make it out of this nut house.
[Ire]P. Howard The Joy (2015) [ebook] [T]his place [i.e prison] is a nuthouse.