cudgel

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cudgel (one's) brains

To try very hard to comprehend, solve, think of, or remember something. I was up all night cudgeling my brains for a way to pay off all my debts. She cudgeled her brains to remember the man's name.
See also: brain, cudgel

take up (the) cudgels against (someone or something)

To prepare for or engage in a conflict against someone or something. May or may not refer to literally arming oneself. People from across the country are taking up the cudgels against the dictatorship. We have to be willing to take up the cudgels if we ever want to loosen the grip of these greedy corporations.
See also: cudgel, take, up

take up the cudgel(s) for (someone or something)

To defend, show strong support for, or argue on behalf of someone or something. The phrase can also be worded as "take up cudgels on behalf of (someone or something)." People from across the country are taking up cudgels for the young man being held by police. He's got plenty of money to hire a proper legal team. I don't think he needs the likes of us taking up the cudgel for him.
See also: take, up

take up the cudgel(s) on behalf of (someone or something)

To defend, show strong support for, or argue on behalf of someone or something. The phrase can also be worded as "take up cudgels for (someone or something)." People from across the country are taking up cudgels on behalf of the young man being held by police. He's got plenty of money to hire a proper legal team. I don't think he needs the likes of us taking up the cudgel on his behalf.
See also: behalf, of, on, take, up

take up the cudgel(s)

To defend, show strong support for, or argue on behalf of someone or something. Often followed by "for" or "on behalf of." People from across the country are taking up cudgels on behalf of the young man being held by police. He's got plenty of money to hire a proper legal team. I don't think he needs the likes of us taking up the cudgel.
See also: take, up
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

take up arms (against someone or something)

to prepare to fight against someone or something. Everyone in the town took up arms against the enemy. They were all so angry that the leader convinced them to take up arms.
See also: arm, take, up
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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

take up arms

Also, take up the cudgels. Become involved in a conflict, either physical or verbal, as in The Kurds took up arms against the Iranians at least two centuries ago, or Some believe it's the vice-president's job to take up the cudgels for the president. The first term originated in the 1400s in the sense of going to war. The variant, alluding to cudgels as weapons, has been used figuratively since the mid-1600s and is probably obsolescent.
See also: arm, take, up
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

take up the cudgels

or

take up the cudgel

If you take up the cudgels for someone or take up the cudgel for them, you speak or fight in support of them. The trade unions took up the cudgels for the 367 staff who were made redundant. We are hoping that the government will take up the cudgel on our behalf. Note: A cudgel was a short, thick stick that was used as a weapon in the past.
See also: cudgel, take, up
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

cudgel your brain (or brains)

think hard about a problem.
This expression was used by Shakespeare in Hamlet: ‘Cudgel thy brains no more about it’.
See also: brain, cudgel

take up the cudgels

start to support someone or something strongly.
See also: cudgel, take, up
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

take up the ˈcudgels for somebody/something

,

take up the cudgels on behalf of somebody/something

(old-fashioned, written) start to defend or support somebody/something: The local newspapers have taken up the cudgels on behalf of the woman who was unfairly dismissed from her job because she was pregnant.
A cudgel is a short thick stick that is used as a weapon.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

take up the cudgels

To join in a dispute, especially in defense of a participant.
See also: cudgel, take, up
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

cudgel one's brains, to

To think hard; to make a vigorous attempt to solve or answer some question, or to remember something. The verb “to cudgel” means to beat with a cudgel (a short thick stick). Possibly the allusion here is to thrashing a schoolboy for failing to answer promptly or correctly. The word “cudgel” is hardly ever heard anymore except in this context, which dates from before 1600. Shakespeare had a clown say to another who was puzzling over a riddle, “Cudgel thy brains no more about it, for your dull ass will not mend his pace with beating” (Hamlet, 5.1). See also beat one's brains; rack one's brain.
See also: cudgel
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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