What Does It’s Not Brain Surgery Mean?

It’s Not Brain Surgery Meaning

Definition: It’s not that difficult to do.  

This idiom is generally used either by a person who wants to deride someone for struggling with an easy task or by a person who wants to encourage someone to do something that is easier than it looks.

Sometimes, a different expression, it’s not rocket science, is used instead.

Origin of It’s Not Brain Surgery

This idiom developed from the fact that brain surgery is a very delicate task that is difficult to do—even for someone who has studied it for many years.

Therefore, brain surgery became a standard comparison for other things that were difficult. This idiom seems to have originated in the latter half of the 1900s.

Examples of It’s Not Brain Surgery

meaning of it s not brain surgeryThis example dialogue shows the idiom being used by two people who are trying to record a football game on TV,

Robert: I can’t figure out how to record this.

Marty: You’re holding the remote control backward. Turn it around.

Robert: It’s still not working. I keep pushing the button and nothing is happening.

Marty: You’re just pushing the volume button. You’ve got to push the record button.

Robert: It’s in Spanish now!

Marty: This isn’t brain surgery! Just give me the remote. I’ll do it.

Robert: No! I’ll figure it out!

brain surgery quotesThe second dialogue shows two students using the expression while completing the final steps of their school project.

Josh: Thank goodness we’re almost done with this. I can’t believe how long it took.

Jeff: I know. Just the citations are left.

Josh: You’ll have to do those on your own. I never learned how to do it.

Jeff: Um, no. You can learn. We’ll do it together.

Josh: It’s too hard.

Jeff: It’s not brain surgery. Come on. I’ll show you how.

More Examples

In this excerpt from an article about the numbers of men versus women on various company boards, the idiom is used to say that it is a simple concept that diversity amongst people can lead to a wider variety of ideas.  

  • “There are a lot of people around the world that have sort of figured this out — that the board, and therefore the company, makes better decisions when they have a wider array of people sitting around the table making decisions,” he said. “It’s not brain surgery. When you have a lot of different people sitting around the table, you find better solutions.” The Washington Post

In this excerpt, the idiom is used to say that keeping data secure is not as difficult as people think.

  • I would say to people that actually it’s not brain surgery — if you want to communicate securely you don’t have to wait on a change in policies. Encryption works, and people can use it — and certain people should, like journalists.  –Washington Post


The English phrase it’s not brain surgery is often used to chide someone for having difficulty accomplishing a relatively straightforward task, or it used to emphasize that while something is somewhat difficult, it is not too hard for the average person.