The brain is the powerhouse organ of the human body that controls all of its life functions. In English, it can be used as a standard medical term, but it can also be used in many idioms associated with intelligence and thinking. Let’s look at some common collocations using this word!
1. TO BRAINSTORM
To spend time, usually with a group of people, spontaneously producing many ideas or solutions to a problem. You could literally think of a “storm” of ideas brewing in one’s brain.
- The group brainstormed for a whole hour with little results.
- Let’s have a brainstorming session to figure out the best way to go about our new business plan.
A: I’m thinking of getting a new dog soon, but I don’t know what to name it.
B: Hmm, do you want to brainstorm some names?
2. BRAIN TEASER
A small problem or puzzle meant to confuse the brain (or literally “tease” the brain), usually meant for entertainment. Riddles are a good example.
- My dad used to give me brain teasers all the time when I was little. Sometimes, I think he enjoyed them more than I did.
A: Imagine you’re a bus driver. Your bus starts off with three people. At the first stop, five people get on the bus. At the second stop, half of the people get off the bus. At the third stop, the number of people triples. Now, what color is the bus driver’s eyes?
B: I think I’ve heard this brain teaser before.
- If you like figuring out brain teasers, you should buy this book. It’s full of them.
A very easy question to answer or task to accomplish. In other words, something that requires “no brain” to figure out.
- Once you get your formal training, the rest of the job is a no-brainer.
A: Which one is the absence of color? White or black?
B: Oh, this one’s a no-brainer. It’s black.
4. TO BRAINWASH
To manipulate the way a person thinks by continually feeding them a certain type of stimulus or putting them in a certain environment.
Brainwashing usually carries a negative connotation, and the word is often used in conspiracy theories that accuse organizations or governments of distorting the way people view reality.
- Some people claim that the media is an easy way to brainwash to public into believing almost anything.
- I probably would’ve been completely brainwashed by my family’s political views if it hadn’t been for the Internet.
A: You need to read this new article I found on North Korea.
B: Another one? I feel like you’re just trying to brainwash me at this point.
5. TO PICK SOMEONE’S BRAIN(S)
To receive information by asking someone about a subject they know about better than you do.
Just as you can pick berries from a bush or fruit from a true, you could imagine someone “picking” knowledge from someone else.
- If you really want to pick your professor’s brain, just go to his office hours.
- Internships provide great opportunities to pick experts’ brains in a field you don’t have much experience in.
- Do you mind if I pick your brain for a second?
As a medical term, this refers to someone who has literally suffered brain death.
As an informal term, it can refer either to something very stupid or to someone who cannot think as well as usual because of fatigue, boredom, etc.
- The patient has been brain-dead since 7:36.
A: To be honest, I felt so brain-dead after listening to those people talk for an hour.
B: Yeah, it was a completely brain-dead topic, too.
A: Are you okay? You looked brain-dead during class today.
B: Yeah, I’m just tired.
7. TO RACK ONE’S BRAIN(S)
To concentrate hard in order to think of or remember something.
- After a minute of racking his brains, he could remember nothing and was forced to leave the answer on the test blank.
A: What’s the name of the hair stylist you last went to?
B: Oh, I forget. I’m gonna have to rack my brain a bit to remember.
8. THE BRAINS BEHIND…
This refers to someone who has secretly (or without acknowledgment) organized or created an event or spectacle.
Just as our body is controlled by our brain, which we cannot see, there is often a hidden “brain” behind many things displayed for people to see.
This expression is another way of referring to someone who has orchestrated something “behind the scenes.”
- The brains behind all these masterpieces is an artist newly emerging in the New York scene.
A: This has been quite a successful event, I see.
B: It has! Would you like me to introduce you to the brains behind the magic?
- Beyoncé is a great performer, but who is the real brains behind all her music?
9. BRAIN DAMAGE
Literally, damage to the brain. Usually this damage is permanent and caused by some sort of injury.
- Christian got in a car accident last weekend. He sustained some injuries, but luckily no brain damage.
A: Did you know that vaccines can cause brain damage?
B: I think that’s just a hoax. Where did you hear this?
10. BRAIN + TO REEL
If your brain is reeling, it means that your mind is overwhelmed or confused from thinking about too much at once. You can also say that your mind is reeling.
- String theory is an interesting concept, but it always leaves my brain reeling.
- Was I the only whose brain was reeling during that movie?
11. LEFT-BRAINED VS. RIGHT-BRAINED
These terms have recently become popular in pop psychology* in explaining people’s personalities and ways of thinking.
The terms derive from an actual division of the brain into left and right hemispheres, though the traits associated with each are not necessarily scientifically accurate.
In pop psychology, the left brain is associated with logical, mathematical, and linguistic thinking, while the right brain is associated with creative, intuitive, and emotional thinking.
- You can take this quiz to see if you’re left-brained or right-brained!
- He has such a left-brained personality. It explains why we don’t get along that well.
- Are you also a right-brained thinker?
* Pop psychology is short for popular psychology. It encompasses ideas that are purportedly based on actual psychology but more popular among the general public than actual psychologists.
12. A BRAIN FOR…
If you have a brain for something (usually a certain way of thinking), it means you have an unusually high aptitude for it, or that your brain is well suited for it.
- I can tell you definitely have a great brain for languages. I could never catch onto them as quickly as you do.
- Don’t be discouraged if you find math difficult. Not everyone has a brain for numbers.