Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The portion of the vertebrate central nervous system that is enclosed within the cranium, continuous with the spinal cord, and composed of gray matter and white matter. It is the primary center for the regulation and control of bodily activities, receiving and interpreting sensory impulses, and transmitting information to the muscles and body organs. It is also the seat of consciousness, thought, memory, and emotion.
  • n. A functionally similar portion of the invertebrate nervous system.
  • n. Intellectual ability; mind: a dull brain; a quick brain.
  • n. Intellectual power; intelligence. Often used in the plural: has brains and good looks. See Synonyms at mind.
  • n. A highly intelligent person.
  • n. The primary director or planner, as of an organization or movement. Often used in the plural.
  • n. The control center, as of a ship, aircraft, or spacecraft.
  • transitive v. Slang To smash in the skull of.
  • transitive v. Slang To hit on the head.
  • idiom beat (one's) brains (out) Informal To exert or expend great mental effort: She beat her brains out during the examination.
  • idiom on the brain Obsessively in mind: The coach has winning on the brain.
  • idiom brain To explore another's ideas through questioning.
  • idiom rack (one's) brain Informal To think long and hard: I racked my brain for hours trying to recall her name.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The control center of the central nervous system of an animal located in the skull which is responsible for perception, cognition, attention, memory, emotion, and action.
  • n. An intelligent person.
  • n. A person who provides the intelligence required for something.
  • n. Intellect.
  • n. By analogy with a human brain, the part of a machine or computer that performs calculations.
  • v. To dash out the brains of; to kill by smashing the skull.
  • v. To strike (someone) on the head.
  • v. To destroy; to put an end to.
  • v. To conceive in the mind; to understand.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The whitish mass of soft matter (the center of the nervous system, and the seat of consciousness and volition) which is inclosed in the cartilaginous or bony cranium of vertebrate animals. It is simply the anterior termination of the spinal cord, and is developed from three embryonic vesicles, whose cavities are connected with the central canal of the cord; the cavities of the vesicles become the central cavities, or ventricles, and the walls thicken unequally and become the three segments, the fore-, mid-, and hind-brain.
  • n. The anterior or cephalic ganglion in insects and other invertebrates.
  • n. The organ or seat of intellect; hence, the understanding.
  • n. The affections; fancy; imagination.
  • n. a very intelligent person.
  • n. the controlling electronic mechanism for a robot, guided missile, computer, or other device exhibiting some degree of self-regulation.
  • transitive v. To dash out the brains of; to kill by beating out the brains.
  • transitive v. To conceive; to understand.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To dash out the brains of; kill by beating in the skull.
  • Figuratively, to destroy; defeat; balk; thwart.
  • To get into the brain; conceive; understand.
  • n. In anatomy, the soft grayish and whitish mass filling the cranial cavity of a vertebrate, consisting of ganglionic nerve-cells and nerve-fibers, with the requisite sustentacular and vascular tissue; the encephalon (which see); the part of the cerebrospinal axis which is contained in the cranium.
  • n. In entomology, the principal ganglion of the nervous system, situated in the head, over the esophagus, and formed by the coalescence of serveral supra-esophageal ganglia.
  • n. The same or a corresponding portion of the nervous system in many other invertebrates.
  • n. Understanding; intellectual power; fancy; imagination: commonly in the plural: as, a man of brains; “my brain is too dull,”

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. that which is responsible for one's thoughts and feelings; the seat of the faculty of reason
  • v. kill by smashing someone's skull
  • n. that part of the central nervous system that includes all the higher nervous centers; enclosed within the skull; continuous with the spinal cord
  • n. someone who has exceptional intellectual ability and originality
  • v. hit on the head
  • n. the brain of certain animals used as meat
  • n. mental ability

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old English brægen.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English brain, from Old English bræġen ("brain"), from Proto-Germanic *bragnan (“brain”), from Proto-Indo-European *mreghmno-, *mreghmo- (“skull, brain”), from Proto-Indo-European *mreK- (“marrow, sinciput”). Cognate with Scots braine, brane ("brain"), North Frisian brayen, brein ("brain"), West Frisian brein ("brain"), Dutch brein ("brain"), Low German Brägen ("brain"), Ancient Greek βρεχμος (brechmos, "front part of the skull, top of the head"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • "Her only other relative, an uncle, was brained by a piece of masonry."
    Edward Gorey, The Hapless Child

    June 15, 2009

  • I wonder if Herm meant something different by "inconsiderable" than we would mean today. Maybe something like "imponderable" or "dumbfounding", i.e., so astounding that one cannot consider (contemplate) it.

    July 26, 2008

  • Ha ha - a bad citation I think. The subject is a whale, natch, and the braining of the "bashing on the head" variety. Herm has been expounding the "potency" of the sperm whale, and so proposes to show us some of its more trifling accomplishments that we may have an impression of the terrible extent of its full wrath.

    Oh god, now I'm starting to sound like him.

    That passage in its full glory:

    Now, mark. Unerringly impelling this dead, impregnable, uninjurable wall, and this most buoyant thing within; there swims behind it all a mass of tremendous life, only to be adequately estimated as piled wood is--by the cord; and all obedient to one volition, as the smallest insect. So that when I shall hereafter detail to you all the specialities and concentrations of potency everywhere lurking in this expansive monster; when I shall show you some of his more inconsiderable braining feats; I trust you will have renounced all ignorant incredulity, and be ready to abide by this; that though the Sperm Whale stove a passage through the Isthmus of Darien, and mixed the Atlantic with the Pacific, you would not elevate one hair of your eye-brow.

    July 26, 2008

  • mumbling to self ...

    some of his more inconsiderable braining feats? lesseee now... we can work this out ...

    a braining feat ... some kind of mental accomplishment
    a considerable braining feat .... an impressive mental accomplishment
    an inconsiderable braining feat .... an unimpressive mental accomplishment
    a more inconsiderable braining feat ... a totally unimpressive mental accomplishment

    Yet, somehow, one feels that Hermann actually means to say the opposite.

    Oh, Hermy, why must you be so deliberately abstruse?

    July 26, 2008

  • ...I shall show you some of his more inconsiderable braining feats...

    - Melville, Moby-Dick, ch. 76

    July 26, 2008

  • Something with which we think that we think.

    January 26, 2008

  • A species is born
    Brain is the body's baby
    New kid on the block!

    Stu Charno

    November 8, 2007

  • One man had a phone, but it did him no good: he had no ears.
    One man had a book, but it did him no good: he had no eyes.
    One man had a brain, but……..
    (A chap who resides in another place wishes to note that "Abrupt parables went out with knee breeches and the second ice age.")

    --Jan Cox

    April 6, 2007