Currently I am learning English language. I found something that I don't know what it means.

Some people on the internet put their disclaimer using one sentence

I have no idea what I'm talking about

or something with

I have no idea bla bla bla...

for instance,

When somebody says "you're smart," make sure they don't mean "I have no idea what you're talking about" - Ariana Lenarsky tweet.

I found the meaning of that sentence on random forum that "I have no idea" means "I don't know at all". There is no clear explanation, though.

What exactly does it mean?

  • 4
    Hi and welcome to EL&U! You don't need to hesitate or feel sorry for anything that you ask as long as you're convinced that your question is reasonable! Jun 23, 2015 at 11:54
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    You may be interested in our sister site, English Language Learners, which is specifically tailored to people who are learning English. Jun 23, 2015 at 12:18
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    "I have no experience or skills relevant to the topic being discussed, but I'm going to offer my opinion anyway."
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 23, 2015 at 12:29
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    This phrase is pretty literal, not idiomatic. Can you clarify what about it you don't understand? Maybe this should be migrated to ELL. Jun 23, 2015 at 15:19
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    For this context I think it's likely that the authors believe their contributions to be worth of consideration based on the things they do know about, but humbly acknowledge their lack of authority on the particular subject in case they are very much wrong.
    – shawnt00
    Jun 23, 2015 at 16:49

6 Answers 6


"He has no idea what he's talking about" would imply that the person in question is very unqualified to be expressing the opinions he is expressing. If you meet someone who starts criticizing a band's technique just because they've had 3 guitar lessons, you might say "he has no idea what he's talking about!". Roughly "he lacks the knowledge to have any authority on the current subject".

When used to describe oneself whilst giving advice, it roughly means: "with regards to the subject in question, my knowledge is severely lacking. My opinion should therefore be taken with this in mind."

This can be used to a somewhat humorous effect. Akin to "I'm a bit of an idiot, but here's my answer".

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    +1 for "unqualified to be expressing the opinions he is expressing" Jun 23, 2015 at 12:23
  • Its not a matter of a lack of authority but rather a lack of expertise. Jun 23, 2015 at 21:29
  • I'd go with expertise too, but I did say lacks the knowledge to have any authority on the current subject. I'd say expertise is probably better though
    – Some_Guy
    Jun 24, 2015 at 7:55
  • Thank you @Some_Guy. You explanation is pretty clear to me.
    – meisyal
    Jun 25, 2015 at 4:32

Be aware that this can also be used sarcastically. Like a doctor saying "I think his foot is broken, but then again, I have no idea what I'm talking about." Obviously, the doctor is qualified, but he would add this to add additional invective to his statement.

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    Or just to be funny.
    – talrnu
    Jun 23, 2015 at 14:27

In addition to the other excellent answers, the phrase, "I have no idea what I am talking about", when applied to ones own speaking, can as well as the more literal meanings be an expression of modesty or a disclaimer.

So someone saying "I have no idea what i'm talking about here but..." may well actually have a reasonable knowledge of the topic but either does not wish to appear arrogant or does not wish to be held responsible for their advice by appearing to be an authority on the matter.

  • Or they're just being sassy and sarcastic.
    – talrnu
    Jun 23, 2015 at 14:16

In this case, the author writes something on a website but may not be very sure of the accuracy of what he wrote. To warn readers and to protect himself from being penalised, he uses this expression in a half-joking manner. It roughly means the same as

I do not fully understand the topic I am writing about.


People generally use I've no idea what I'm talking about if they're not too sure about what they're uttering. It maybe because the speaker himself doesn't understand what he is talking about or because he understands that what he is stating may not be completely true. When a person wants to be humorously apologetic and excuse himself for his folly, he says I've no idea what I'm talking about.

I would say that it is a more decent way of saying "Oh God! I am blabbering [nonsense]."

This video may help you understand the usage better.


Being as literal as possible, you can consider this phrase a slight abbreviation of the phrase "I have no idea [about this subject which] I'm talking about."

An idea is a "thought or suggestion as to a possible course of action." (OED) In order to form such a thought about a subject, you must have some degree of knowledge about that subject. Therefore, declaring you have no ideas about a subject is a common way of admitting your lack of knowledge on that subject.

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