Wrap one’s head around

The idiom wrap one’s head around something has been in use since the twentieth century. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as beat around the bush, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, ankle biter, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idiom wrap one’s head around something where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

The idiom wrap one’s head around something means to understand something, especially something strange or out of the ordinary; to accept something that one does not particularly want to accept. The expression wrap one’s head around something is also expressed as wrap one’s mind around something and the earliest known version, get one’s head around something. While the expression wrap one’s head around something seems to have appeared in the 1970s and may be primarily an American phrase, the term get one’s head around something first appeared in a British boys’ magazine in the 1920s. Related phrases are wraps one’s head around something, wrapped one’s head around something, wrapping one’s head around something.


“That was a hard thing for me to wrap my head around, looking down at my watch and seeing that I’ve run 18-minute-mile pace up a hill,” Goucher said.  (The Denver Post)

It took me a while — I am 55 years old — to wrap my head around that high school players were going to come into the league and do well right away.  (The New York Post)

But the old cliché of the “difficult second album” wasn’t true for French once he’d wrapped his head around having to produce an album to deadline, he says: “I was riddled with terror after I agreed to it.” (The Irish Examiner)

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