What does the idiom "not have the foggiest idea" mean?

Are you using the idiom not have the foggiest idea but not sure about its meaning? Using idioms, which are important elements of spoken and written language, in the right place strengthens your language skills. Examine the meaning of the not have the foggiest idea idiom and the situations in which it is used.

Meaning of "not have the foggiest idea"


The phrase 'not have the foggiest idea' is an idiom used to express that a person is completely stumped and has no clue as to what to do or answer. It often expresses a lack of understanding or knowledge on a certain topic.


The phrase 'not have the foggiest idea' is thought to be derived from the 19th century expression 'not have the foggyst notion.' That phrase was popularized around the 1850s by the British author William Makepeace Thackeray in his novel “Vanity Fair.” The phrase was later shortened to 'not have the foggiest idea' and is now often used to describe a lack of knowledge on a certain subject.


The phrase 'not have the foggiest idea' is often used as an idiom in casual conversations between friends and family. It can also be used in more professional settings when a person is faced with a difficult task or problem and does not know how to solve it. The phrase is very versatile and can be used to express confusion on almost any topic.

Example Sentences

  • I don't have the foggiest idea how to fix this computer.
  • I was asked a question about quantum physics, and I didn't have the foggiest idea what to say.
  • My friend asked me for advice on what to do next, but I just didn't have the foggiest idea.

The meanings of the words in the "not have the foggiest idea" idiom

Idioms with similar meanings in different languages

"Barking up the wrong tree" is an English idiom that means to pursue a mistaken or misguided course of action. In German, the similar idiom is "Auf dem Holzweg sein," which translates to "To be on the wrong track." This idiom emphasizes the idea that when you are pursuing the wrong course of action, you are not going to achieve your desired outcome.


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