Posted by: Dutch | January 27, 2010

A no-brainer

Meaning

Something that requires little mental effort or intelligence to perform or understand. The term is often applied to decisions which are straightforward or sometimes to people who appear to lack intelligence.

Origin

No-brainer is American in origin and first began being used there in the 1950s. The first example that I’ve found of its use in the ‘requiring little mental effort’ sense is this ‘The Berrys’ cartoon, by Carl Grubert. It appeared in the Long Beach Independent, December 1959:

No brainer

The first example of the term with the ‘easily made decision’ meaning is from the Canadian newspaper The Lethbridge Herald, January 1968, from a report on an ice-hockey game:

He’d break in on a goalie and the netminder would make one of those saves that our manager-coach, Sid Abel, calls “a no-brainer.”

The application of ‘no-brainer’ to individuals came later, after the term was already well-established. For example, this from Tom Alibrandi’s 1979 novel Killshot:

“I’ll unanimously be voted the no-brainer-of-the-month award.”

– Special thanks to Gary Martin of The Phrase Finder

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