boggle the mind

Save This Word!

Bewilder or astonish with complexity, novelty, or the like, as in The very magnitude of the Milky Way boggles the mind. The source of this usage is unclear, as the verb to boggle has several other seemingly unrelated meanings—to shy away, to hesitate, to bungle. [Second half of 1900s]

Should you take this quiz on “shall” versus “should”? It should prove to be a quick challenge!
Question 1 of 6
Which form is used to state an obligation or duty someone has?

Words nearby boggle the mind

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.


What does boggle the mind mean?

To boggle the mind is to utterly overwhelm or to be extremely difficult to understand or comprehend, typically due to complexity or abnormality.

The verb boggle means to overwhelm or bewilder. An adjective form of boggle the mind is mind-boggling, as in The size and scale of the universe is mind-boggling—it’s impossible to grasp its magnitude. A similar term is mind-blowing (though this is usually applied to things that are impressive as opposed to confusing).

Things are often said to boggle the mind or to be mind-boggling when they’re incredibly complex or exist on a scale that’s impossible to comprehend or “wrap your head around.”

Example: His behavior really boggles the mind sometimes—I can’t begin to understand his motivation for doing the things he does.

Where does boggle the mind come from?

The phrase boggle the mind has been in use since at least the 1950s. The first records of the term mind-boggling come from around the same time. The phrase the mind boggles (at something) is recorded earlier, right around 1900. It’s basically the passive form of boggle the mind, as in The mind boggles at the unexplored depths of the ocean. The verb boggle may derive from the word bogle, an old term for a kind of ghost or goblin (the word boogeyman is based on the same root).

Things that boggle the mind are incomprehensible, astounding, and bewildering. They overwhelm our minds with their utter complexity, massiveness, strangeness, or a combination of these things. Of course, the phrase is often used to exaggerate how big or complex something is. Big numbers are often said to boggle the mind. Another way to say this is astronomical, as in The estimated cost is astronomical—the amount boggles the mind. This uses the scale of the universe as a metaphor for things that are huge and unable to be put in perspective. This is exactly the kind of thing that is said to boggle the mind.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to boggle the mind?

  • mind-bogglingly (adverb)

What are some synonyms for boggle the mind?

What are some words that share a root or word element with boggle the mind? 

What are some words that often get used in discussing boggle the mind?


How is boggle the mind used in real life?

The phrase boggle the mind is typically used informally, even when applied to scientific topics like the size of the universe.



Try using boggle the mind!

Is boggle the mind used correctly in the following sentence?

It boggles the mind that such a bad movie can win so many awards.

How to use boggle the mind in a sentence