food for thought

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An idea or issue to ponder, as in That interesting suggestion of yours has given us food for thought. This metaphoric phrase, transferring the idea of digestion from the stomach to mulling something over in the mind, dates from the late 1800s, although the idea was also expressed somewhat differently at least three centuries earlier.

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Question 1 of 7
Fill in the blank: I can’t figure out _____ gave me this gift.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.


What does food for thought mean?

The phrase food for thought refers to an idea or piece of information that’s worth pondering or thinking over.

Another way of saying this is “something to think about.”

The phrase food for thought is a metaphor: it suggests that the information that has been presented is like or should be treated like food that needs to be digested. In this way, the potentially helpful or insightful points that can be taken from the information are like nutrients that can be absorbed into the body.

Food for thought can be used to refer to any information that causes a person to think about it, as in The researchers were shocked by the results of their study and it provided them with some real food for thought.

But the phrase is perhaps most commonly used to refer to a suggestion or piece of information that’s presented to someone with the intention of getting them to change their outlook in some way. Sometimes, the speaker will even specifically call something food for thought as a way of telling the listener to really think about it.

Example: You could earn a lot more if you became certified—just some food for thought.

Where does food for thought come from?

The first records of the phrase food for thought come from the 1800s, but the word food had been used in the sense of something to think about since at least the 1600s.

Food for thought always involves something that can or should be mulled over or pondered. A synonym for those verbs is ruminate, which is based on a similar metaphor. Ruminate comes from a word that refers to the digestion process of ruminant animals like cows, in which they chew things over and over. Information that’s considered food for thought should be chewed over in one’s mind. Anything that causes you to think for a while can be called food for thought, regardless of whether it’s a serious philosophical topic or useless trivia.

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What are some synonyms for food for thought?

  • something to think about
  • something to consider

What are some words that share a root or word element with food for thought

What are some words that often get used in discussing food for thought?

What are some words food for thought may be commonly confused with?

How is food for thought used in real life?

Food for thought is commonly used as a way for someone to suggest that you at least think about what they just said.



Try using food for thought!

Is food for thought used correctly in the following sentence?

The lecture gave me a lot of food for thought—I’ve been thinking about it since it ended.

How to use food for thought in a sentence