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.
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

or

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

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

rack (one's) brains

/brain
To try hard to remember or think of something.
See also: brain, rack
References in classic literature ?
As I stood in the dark shadow of the tunnel's end racking my brain for a feasible plan the while I watched, catlike, the old man's every move, he took up the money-pouch and crossed to one end of the apartment, where, bending to his knees, he fumbled with a panel in the wall.
I was racking my brains with thinking how to tell her about Mr.
I remember just racking my brain, looking at my notes, thinking over and over again trying to get it right.
The 47-year-old actor noted, "I've been reading these stories because I am racking my brain.
So when next I find myself racking my brain Searching desperately for a rhyme, I'll just put a load of nonsense down And perhaps next time I'll win a prize.
I have been racking my brain over the last few days and, on this occasion, it worked.
30pm BBC1) I'VE been racking my brain trying to think of a soap baby who wasn't born prematurely, but Kim and Denise are preparing themselves for the worst regarding baby Pearl.
I've been racking my brain to think of a hero that wouldn't make me sound childish.
I've been racking my brain trying to figure out a way to start these words.
The weekend prior to the back-to-back speeches found me holed up in my hotel room, racking my brain for all the jokes and premises I could produce to bounce off Jeff come Monday morning.
IN the early hours while talking to Spencer about a general knowledge matter, Jade says: "I've been racking my brain.
Racking my brain I had an 'eureka' moment and may have come up with a solution.
en s h "While racking my brain and coming up with largely quite terrible ideas, I remembered watching a clip of the most fearless, relentless and absolutely bonkers animal I had ever seen.
He added: "I was never more sincere in my life in the Dail and I was racking my brain to think of a response.
Mary, 44, said: "I don't watch the show, so when they told me it was for Desperate Housewives I was racking my brain to think which one that was.