rack (one's) brain(s)

(redirected from racking their brain)

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 periodicals archive ?
Audience participation was also encouraged as visitors joined the children in racking their brains for a Burns-themed quiz.
It's Valentine's Day and you're probably one of the many racking their brains on what to pick up on the way home.
I am sure every cricketer I know will be racking their brains to see if every situation they have been involved with has been genuine.
Students Shaun Irvine and Kat Bassitt have been chosen to take their designs forward after spending weeks racking their brains for thoughts.
Our editors spent months speaking to retailers and vendors, and also racking their brains to come up with new and innovative ideas.
EGGHEADS at Coventry University have been racking their brains for an alternative use for Polo mints.
BOOKMAKERS have been racking their brains to come up with ways of getting punters to back the supposed Cheltenham bankers.
Some of the greatest minds in education have been racking their brains - and surfing the Internet in the 21st century - to figure out ways to turn on high school students, to challenge them to think outside the box.
So they are racking their brains to make the Lotto popular again.
Senior royals are said to be racking their brains to get her a proper job.
They were racking their brains to turn u pa solution, but having set themselves a deadline of this evening to either find a new venue or a new team they appeared tohaveneither in place.
BAFTA officials are racking their brains for an alternative to a red carpet after last year when rain caused a strange white substance to froth up and ruin some of Jimmy Choo's finest creations.
Gordon Strachan's manpower crisis means that Coventry City fans could be racking their brains to try and recognise some of the players on parade against Sheffield Wednesday at Highfield Road today.
As well as testing each team's general knowledge, the quiz has a round of job specific questions, so on Thursday the two teams will be racking their brains about the butcher business.