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

Idioms are generally defined as groups of words that form a meaningful whole when they come together, even though the words in them do not make sense on their own. They have produced many idioms according to their own cultural characteristics in communities using the English language. What does pick someone's brains mean? In what situations is pick someone's brains used?

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

From Shakespeare to Social Media: The Evolution of English Idioms

English idioms have been around for centuries, with many originating from sources like literature, mythology, and everyday life. Shakespeare, for example, coined many phrases that are still used today, such as "break the ice" and "heart of gold." Over time, new idioms have emerged, with social media and popular culture providing rich sources of inspiration. For instance, the phrase "throwing shade" came into use in the 1990s thanks to ball culture, but has since been popularized by social media.


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