rack (one's) brain(s)

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rack (one's) brain(s)

To struggle to recall or think of something. I've been racking my brain, but I still can't remember what Lydia's husband's name is. He racked his brains all weekend trying to think of a solution to the problem.
See also: rack

rack one's brain(s)

Fig. to try very hard to think of something. I racked my brains all afternoon, but couldn't remember where I put the book. Don't waste any more time racking your brain. Go borrow the book from the library.
See also: brain, rack

rack one's brain

Also, cudgel one's brains. Strain to remember or find a solution, as in I've been racking my brain trying to recall where we put the key, or He's been cudgeling his brains all day over this problem. The first term, first recorded in 1583 as rack one's wit, alludes to the rack that is an instrument of torture, on which the victim's body was stretched until the joints were broken. The variant, from the same period, uses cudgel in the sense of "beat with a cudgel" (a short thick stick). Shakespeare used it in Hamlet (5:1): "Cudgel thy brains no more about it, for your dull ass will not bend his pace with beating." Also see beat one's brains out.
See also: brain, rack

rack your brains


rack your brain

COMMON If you rack your brains or rack your brain, you think very hard about something or try very hard to remember it. She racked her brains but could not remember enough to satisfy the clerk. They asked me for fresh ideas, but I had none. I racked my brain, but couldn't come up with anything. Note: The old-fashioned spelling wrack is occasionally used instead of rack in this expression. Bob was wracking his brain, trying to think where he had seen the drivers before. Note: You can refer to this activity as brain-racking. All your brain-racking is making absolutely no contribution to the world.
See also: brain, rack

rack your brains (or brain)

make a great effort to think of or remember something.
A rack was a medieval instrument of torture consisting of a frame on which a victim was stretched by turning rollers to which their wrists and ankles were tied. To rack someone was to torture them on this device and the image in this idiom is of subjecting one's brains to a similar ordeal in the effort to remember something.
1998 Spectator If I rack my brains for something nice to say about our weather, I suppose it does at least enable us to grow better grass than they do in California.
See also: brain, rack

rack your ˈbrains

(also wrack your ˈbrains less frequent) (informal) try very hard to think of something or remember something: I’ve been racking my brains all day trying to remember his name.
See also: brain, rack

rack (one's) brain

To think long and hard: I racked my brain for hours trying to recall her name.
See also: brain, rack

rack (one's) brains

To try hard to remember or think of something.
See also: brain, rack
References in classic literature ?
He was thinking by himself, and even seriously racking his brain to find a direction for this single force four times multiplied, with which he did not doubt, as with the lever for which Archimedes sought, they should succeed in moving the world, when someone tapped gently at his door.
Tarzan, racking his brains for some means to cope single-handed with the infuriated beast, had suddenly recalled his battle with Terkoz; and as the great shoulders came clear of the window, so that the lioness hung upon the sill only by her forepaws, Tarzan suddenly released his hold upon the brute.
But while he belied Arthur's description, and appeared a gentle lamb rather than a wild man, he was racking his brains for a course of action.
While speaking on Today's show, Damon shared that he has been racking his brain wondering if he could have stopped Weinstein from doing such disgraced conduct.
Racking his brain for new ways to raise money for a local hospital charity event, Steven Duncan devised a plan: Get people to donate unwearable jewelry languishing in a jewelry box, convert it into cash, buy one exquisite item and auction it off.
Its vibe of intimacy and casualness is absorbing, and its strengths lie in a wealth of lucky-break moments: a stoned, disheveled Newcombe trying to torture a Phil Spector-esque masterpiece from his cheap four-track recorder or brawling with his bandmates onstage; Taylor preening for the camera and racking his brain for reasons why he might deserve his exfriend's abuse.
Regarding Henry: Florida Marlins owner John Henry is racking his brain to figure out how to make the residents of South Florida buy him a new ballpark.
Manager Roger Ashby is still racking his brain over one or two positions and a good performance at Butlin Road from any of the candidates involved could sway the boss's opinion their view.
I would suggest Mr Brownlee, as a Coventry resident, has more than enough letter writing ammunition to keep himself happy for months and on matters which affect him directly, rather than racking his brains trying to come up with some criticism of the Tories.
Swan (right) was full of praise for the horse and for trainer Colm Murphy, but his competitive instinct remains with him in retirement, as he was soon racking his brains in an effort to recall how many Grade 1 wins had been achieved by the horse most famously associated with him, four-time Irish Champion Hurdle winner Istabraq.
SO the Chancellor is racking his brains to stop the property rot.
But, with such limited funds to work with, and his mixture of young loan players and old stagers not blending at present, the Sky Blues boss must be racking his brains as to how to turn things round at Highfield Road.
He's been racking his brains recently trying to think of a gift and some of the players at Stamford Bridge use the flotation tanks," said the source.
The 45-year-old actor is racking his brains to get his own back after Pitt poked fun at his Ocean's Eleven co-star for being named the Sexiest Man Alive.