Sometimes, in the middle of a conversation, a "loss of mind" can affect the speaker. What is the word for that situation and that person ?

Are there more specific terms or phrases than:

  • the loss of mind (or)
  • empty mindedness?
  • 3
    I'm pretty sure that that's a "loss of mind". May 25, 2014 at 18:41
  • 2
    @EdwinAshworth Unless the intended answer is insanity, I doubt it is. But then this whole question is clearly written by someone with limited English proficiency and it’s hard to know exactly what is being asked. A much better fit for English Language Learners than ELU. May 25, 2014 at 18:47
  • Apologies. I'm pretty sure that that's a "loss of mind" that OP was heading towards. It's grammatical if semantically inappropriate here. May 25, 2014 at 18:55
  • 4
    It's called a, er... um... Oh, I forget. May 26, 2014 at 15:08
  • 7
    Brain fart. ...
    – Aaron Hall
    May 27, 2014 at 0:34

13 Answers 13


The most common expression that describes the instance when you suddenly forget what you were about to say is

I was just about to say something, but my mind's gone blank

Alternatively you could use

I had an awful lapse of memory when I was asked to talk about X.

via @Noah

I meant to tell her that Nick had phoned, but it completely slipped my mind

  • Slipped my mind in AmE.
    – Noah
    May 25, 2014 at 18:25
  • @Noah good one. Why didn't I think of it? Must've slipped my mind, you should post it! It's common in BrEng as well.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 25, 2014 at 18:28
  • 1
    Just add it to your post. Would be good to have all the things in one place.
    – Noah
    May 25, 2014 at 18:30
  • In the same vein as "mind's gone blank", there is the shortened form "mind-blank". e.g. "I just had a mind-blank."
    – daviewales
    May 26, 2014 at 14:02
  • @daviewales or as an intransitive verb: blank to become confused or abstracted —often used with "out" (from m-w.com) e.g. I blanked when she asked me what my job was.
    – Jack Ryan
    May 27, 2014 at 12:07

Lost my train of thought, which is kind of the same as lost track.

Also if it is due to stress or overload you would say you were (brain) fried.


For rhetorical terminology I suggest aporia or aposiopesis. In conversational English, this is termed drawing a blank (link to M-W—see also OED s.v. draw, v. 52.b). For slang, this would perhaps qualify as a species of brain fart.

  • I'm not convinced aporia is correct in context. Aposiopesis is more nearly on target, but still has connotations of voluntary discontinuity of expression whereas the question is more about involuntary behaviour. I'd agree with drawing a blank or brain fart. May 26, 2014 at 19:30
  • Yes, @JonathanLeffler, naming a rhetorical figure pretty much always implies intentionality, but that implication may be taken with a grain of salt. On the one hand, rhetors lie to audiences by feigning total ignorance of rhetoric: "I am no orator, as Brutus is, / But as you know me all, a plain blunt man." On the other, they lie to each other by having a fancy name for every screwup, whereby they can claim, "Yeah, I meant to do that." May 27, 2014 at 3:19

In the US, such a lapse is often referred to as a senior moment.

  • Yes, in Australia too.
    – Mark Hurd
    May 27, 2014 at 2:14
  • I'm old enough now to plausibly claim to have senior moments. When I was younger, I preferred the phrase "juvenile onset senility". Aug 2, 2014 at 1:51

It is called brain cramp:

(idiomatic) A temporary mental lapse, such as an inability to remember something, to focus one's attention, to understand something, or to perform some other mental task of which one would ordinarily be capable

Sometimes called mental cramp also. It is mistaken with brain fart usually which some sources say that they are same but they are different.

space out can be used as a verb:

to become inattentive, distracted, or mentally remote


Consider draw a blank and blank out.

draw a blank: Fig. to fail to remember something

blank out: Fig. to forget something, perhaps on purpose; to blot something out of memory: I blanked out your question. What did you say?

  • 1
    "Draw a blank" was already given. As I have commented before, it seems that a good percentage of your answers are regurgitating previous answers. "Blank out" doesn't even make sense here. It means something entirely different - it means that you know what the question was but chose to ignore or get rid of it. May 27, 2014 at 15:14

try this

at a loss - Puzzled or uncertain what to think, say, or do.


  • 2
    At a loss more implies the problem exhausts the person's capability to deal with it, rather than having a temporary brain lapse.
    – dwjohnston
    May 26, 2014 at 1:26

Wordbound: Unable to find expression in words


lethologica the inability to remember a word or put your finger on the right word


tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon (TOT) is the failure to retrieve a word from memory, combined with partial recall and the feeling that retrieval is imminent


completely 'blanking out' falls under Short-term memory

or a

lapsus memoriae, a slip of memory.


It appears there are lots of good terms for this subject. Consider also brain fade.

  • 3
    Or the similar brain fart.
    – Preston
    May 27, 2014 at 10:42

I haven't seen this on here so far; I would add the term "mental block". E.g.

I was trying to think of a good answer to this question, but I had a complete mental block and couldn't remember it.

As another user says, it appears there are a variety of good answers to this question.


mind lapses is the right word for such resulting action. In rude tone it is also denoted as Blockhead.


While not thought about on the order of "mind lapse", this could be a case of temporary amnesia. It is defined as loss of memory, which is exactly what ... I'm sorry. What was I talking about?


Also consider:
absent-mindedness (or absentmindedness), meaning “The characteristic or state of being easily distracted or preoccupied”;
distracted, “having one's attention diverted; preoccupied”;
sidetracked, getting diverted or distracted from a main issue or course of action with an alternate or less relevant topic or activity; or deviating briefly from the topic at hand

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