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
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

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
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
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.

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
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

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
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

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
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

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
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.

rack one's brain, to

To strain to remember something or discover a solution. The rack here is the medieval instrument of torture on which the victim’s body was stretched until it broke. The idea is old; “we break our brains for naught” comes from 1530. The word “rack” came into use about 150 years later.
See also: rack, to
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in classic literature ?
I was racking my brains with thinking how to tell her about Mr.
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.
A collapsing llama is an unusual case and as I drove over the moors to see what I could do I was racking my brains to think of possible causes.
STILL racking my brains for a last-minute gift for Father's Day tomorrow on behalf of my daughters.
"When things like this happen you have to look at yourself - I do anyway - and to be honest I'm racking my brains. Am I pushing them too hard, am I asking too much from them?
AFTER an hour of what seemed like a 'best of' compilation, I was racking my brains over what favourites were left for this Scottish four-piece to pull out the bag for their encore.
"What song is that, honey?" I asked, racking my brains to remember the track list on Now 76.
He said: "I used to lie in bed at night racking my brains, wondering what I could do to help a new player improve his game, which is how I came up with the idea of producing the Gravity Cue.
I've tried this and am still racking my brains trying to decipher the vacant stare back, the downward pointing mouth, and the shoulder shrug.
After racking my brains for months, trying to figure out who would be Muse's 'special guests' and coming to the conclusion it would be Kasabian, I was a bit annoyed when I learnt that it was the Noisettes.
And once again I'm racking my brains to think of something different to have for Christmas lunch.
Coun Miss Clare Fancote told Birmingham Leisure Services Committee yesterday: 'I've been racking my brains but I can't think of anywhere for them.'
Jon 'Reg' Rishworth wondered if a City player had ever played on the opposite side to his brother and after racking my brains I could only think of one- Dave Bennett, who in 1984-85 season played against his brother Gary of Sunderland.
I've been racking my brains as to just who Kieron Dyer looks like with his new hairstyle.
He said, "I spent several minutes racking my brains to think of someone who could help and could only come up with my sister and my dad.