Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

What are some other expressions for:

"Off the top of my head"

I seem to say this very often, it would be nice to be able to spice things up.

share|improve this question
1  
Are you concerned people will notice you keep repeating yourself? They might still notice you keep saying things without thinking first, even if you find several different phrases to cycle through. Seriously though, Offhand is shorter and probably more common, so maybe it wouldn't be so noticeable if you used that. –  FumbleFingers May 11 '11 at 17:04
    
I've noticed a LOT of people seem to have signature phrases they use, especially when giving talks. "Right?", "Ok?", "you see...", etc. One friends appends "for that" to the end of everything he says... drives me nuts. Anyway, I think you're smart to try and diversify. –  Fixee May 12 '11 at 0:27
add comment

11 Answers 11

A commonly used synonym is..

I can't think of one right offhand.

or

I can't think of one right this second

share|improve this answer
    
right this second seems to come off better than right offhand. –  casperOne May 12 '11 at 3:58
add comment

A few options:

  • off the cuff
  • improvised
  • instinctively
  • intuitively
  • without looking it up
share|improve this answer
add comment

I often speak in terms of how nothing leaps out at me or that what leaps out at me is...

share|improve this answer
add comment

my gut tells me and my first instinct is

share|improve this answer
add comment

"from the hip" is another one that's used

share|improve this answer
1  
I think "from the hip" derives from wild-west gunslingers not even taking time to raise the arm and sight down the barrel before firing. Leading to overtones of "inaccuracy", which are even more present in the modern derivative "shooting from the lip" (which evokes "ill-advised" rather than "quick"). –  FumbleFingers May 11 '11 at 16:59
    
+1 Fumble: because "shooting from the lip" reminded me of a song bar ahah I understand it slightly more now :) –  Alenanno May 12 '11 at 9:19
add comment

I like "extempore", though it is somewhat literary.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Engineers and scientists often say, “Well, working off of the back of an envelope, I would say that…”

share|improve this answer
add comment

I'm just spitballing here.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Ad lib.

share|improve this answer
    
While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. –  tchrist Aug 19 '12 at 3:02
add comment

My first question would be: why do you use "off the top of my head" so much?

For example, if you're typing at your computer and a coworker wanders in and says, "My screen went blank, what's wrong with my computer?", you might reply, "Off the top of my head, it could be...". But you could just as well begin straight with, "Well, it could be ...", and if you're not worried about a few extra words, you could end with, "... I can't really tell without investigating it and I'm busy right now."

So I think the meta-question here is what is the context and what is your goal; are you over-using a specific phrase or are you over/mis-using a concept? Are you trying to minimize the other person's question, implying that it's easy to come up with counter-examples? Are you wanting to qualify your own statements to protect you from being wrong? ("I told you, it was off the top of my head.") Are you trying to minimize conversation?

Depending on context, you can easily get the concept across without breaking out any little phrase or finding a host of synonymous phrases. ("I can think of two or three examples, and I'm sure that if we had the time, we could come up with more." Or, "I can think of a couple of trivial examples that illustrate the problem, though I'm sure actual problems would be more subtle." Or, "A couple of things to consider would be...")

So, if you're wanting to simply qualify your answer as absolutely your first ideas with no real analysis, you can say things like, "A couple of possibilities spring to mind", or simply be explicit, "My first thoughts are..." or "I haven't had time to think about it, but my immediate thoughts are...", or "My first impression is...". But it really, really depends on your context and it's possible that particular phrases aren't needed at all.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Brain fart. Not very common, but it should be. E.g.

Just a brain fart, but how about...

share|improve this answer
    
To me, that phrase has a very strong negative connotation: a slip, lapse or mistake. I wouldn't use it for (or understand it as) a happy improvisation. –  Colin Fine May 12 '11 at 11:06
    
I'd agree with Colin. I've usually heard this in a negative context, or at best as a "this is probably a crazy idea, but...". –  Wayne May 12 '11 at 13:35
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.