Off the Top Of My Head

Meaning of Idiom ‘Off the Top of My (or one’s) Head’

Off the top of one’s head means to say something spontaneously, without much thought or consideration as to whether one is correct; to give a quick guess or to estimate something. 1Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.,2Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.,3Brenner, Gail Abel. Webster’s New World American Idioms Handbook. Wiley, 2003.

Usage

This idiom is often used to say “I don’t know” as in “not off the top of my head.”

Examples Of Use

“Do you know how much a bus token costs?” asked Jane. “Off the top of my head, I think it’s $1.55,” said John.

“If you want to run a successful business, you need to know your numbers off the top of your head.”

“Just off the top of my head, I’d say there is a seventy-five percent chance of success.”

“I know you’ve worked with many clients. Can you name some of your biggest ones off the top of your head?”

Origin

Used since the mid-1900’s.

This idiom alludes to not thinking very deeply or not using the inside of one’s brain, suggesting that thoughts are coming only from the top surface of the brain.

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Sources   [ + ]

1. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
2. Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.
3. Brenner, Gail Abel. Webster’s New World American Idioms Handbook. Wiley, 2003.