I found the phrase, “Don’t leave your brains at the door,” in the statement of Republican congressman, Morgan Griffith quoted in ‘Today’s Quote’ of Time magazine (November 18). Under the caption, “I hope you didn't leave your brains at the door,” it reads:

“A Republican congressman from Virginia, to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. Chu has been assailed in congressional hearings for claiming to have had no real-time knowledge of key events in the collapse of solar energy company Solyndra.”

“Don’t leave your brains at the door,” reminded me of the famous catch phrase of Amex Card’s, “Don’t leave home without it” that prevailed in 1980s. But I don’t understand exact meaning of “Don’t leave your brains at the door.” Does it mean “Don’t be silly (or oblivious)”?

I could find a few examples of the use of this phrase on Google, e.g.

-"Have I ever walked out on a movie? Not yet. This is the closest I've come. Just the first in a line of soon to come Robin Williams crap. Maybe not technically a "*leave your brain at the door" film" -.Amazon.com

-If you live in a confessional world, do you need to leave your brain at the door? There’s been a lot of talk lately about whether Roman Catholics have less intellectual freedom than other Christians because of the strongly confessional nature of the Catholic tradition.- Scientia et Sapientia.

As far as I checked, none of Oxford, Cambridge, Merrimu-Webster registers “leave (check) one’s brains at the door” as an idiom. Nor Google Ngram viewer registers usage of this phrase.

Is this phrase has a currency as an idiomatic phrase nowadays?

  • 2
    It is an extension of an idiom. The idiom is "Leave/check your [noun] at the door," meaning whatever the noun is in that sentence, its absence is a requirement for what follows. E.g., "check your ego at the door" means what follows is likely to be a humbling experience.
    – Robusto
    Jun 22, 2014 at 12:22
  • I suspect that this expression may be an offshoot (so to speak) of Old West saloon signs enjoining people to check their guns at the door or at the bar. Jun 22, 2014 at 12:30
  • @Brian: Which itself could be construed as a metaphorical extension of the notion of leaving items of apparel (coats, hats, umbrellas, etc.) at the door of an establishment.
    – Robusto
    Jun 22, 2014 at 12:48
  • @Robusto: Actually I'd bet on the precedence of weaponry here: see Homer's Odyssey 1.121. Jun 22, 2014 at 14:47

3 Answers 3


My guess is that it borrows the idea of leave your coat at the door. When you enter a theater, you don't need your coat any more inside the theater until you are to leave it. Similarly, leave your brains at the door means you don't need to use your brains from now on until you quit. Just my personal understanding.

  • 1
    Interesting you use the example of the theater. Most of the time, if you want to enjoy a movie, you must check your brains at the door.
    – JeffSahol
    Nov 21, 2011 at 2:11
  • @JeffSahol +1 for check your brains at the door.
    – Terry Li
    Nov 21, 2011 at 2:17
  • @JeffSahol by the way, I just used the theater example to introduce the meaning of the phrase leave something at the door. Let's say, leave your brains at the door when you enter your bedroom :)
    – Terry Li
    Nov 21, 2011 at 2:19

It's an idiom. Leaving one's brain at the door means you are not engaging the intellect, whether that means a mindless movie plot (if you think about it you realize how dumb it is) or not critically evaluating what you hear in a speech. So "don't leave your brain at the door" is meant to caution you to not take things at face value but rather to think about them.

When this idiom is used in an area where there is disagreement (e.g. politics, science research, religion), the person imploring you to not check your brain believes that "the other side" talks a good game but doesn't stand up to scrutiny.


To leave something at the door is to abandon it. It's a common metaphorical formula, but no specific instance is an especially common idiom.

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