What does the idiom "pick someone's brains" mean?

You are wondering about the meaning of the phrase pick someone's brains, maybe you heard it in a TV show, movie or theater play. Although this idiom is not used very often, it enriches your capacity of expression and strengthens communication. In which case is the expression pick someone's brains used and what is its meaning?

Meaning of "pick someone's brains"


The phrase “pick someone’s brain” is used to describe the act of asking someone to provide you with information, advice or knowledge. It implies an informal discussion or exchange of ideas, and is often used as a way of gaining insights or advice from someone who is more knowledgeable than you. It can also be used to ask a person who may have more experience in a certain area than you do.


The phrase “pick someone’s brain” dates back to the late 19th century. It first appeared in print in 1871, in a newspaper article from the Australian Town and Country Journal. It is thought to have originated from the phrase “pick a man’s brains” which was used to describe the act of seeking information from a person who is more knowledgeable than oneself. This phrase was originally used as a metaphor for “picking apart” someone’s knowledge and ideas, as if they were an object or a piece of fruit.


The phrase “pick someone’s brain” is a commonly used phrase in English and is used in both formal and informal contexts. It is used to describe the act of asking someone for their insights or advice on a certain topic. It can also be used to ask someone who is more experienced in a particular field for their opinion on a certain issue. It can be used both in conversation and in formal writing.

Example Sentences

  • I am looking to start my own business but I don't know where to begin. I think I need to pick someone's brain and get some advice.
  • I was hoping to pick your brain and get some advice on how to start a successful blog.
  • I want to write a book on economics and I need to pick the brains of some experts in the field.

The meanings of the words in the "pick someone's brains" idiom

The Surprising Origins of Everyday English Idioms

Many English idioms have surprisingly dark origins, often rooted in violence, death, and superstition. For instance, the phrase "raining cats and dogs" is said to have originated in the 17th century, when heavy rain would often cause dead animals to wash up on the streets. Meanwhile, the idiom "rule of thumb" is believed to have originated from a law that allowed men to beat their wives with a stick no thicker than their thumb.


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