It’s Not Brain Surgery


A task that’s easy to accomplish; something that lacks complexity and is thus simple to understand and/or do.

Example: Today, I’ll show you how to make a delicious homemade club sandwich. Don’t worry, it’s not brain surgery. (In other words, making the sandwich will not be difficult, it’s easy.)

Synonyms: a piece of cake, a walk in the park, as easy as pie, it’s not rocket science

The side view of a human brain.
Artwork of the human brain.

The Origin of “It’s Not Brain Surgery”

For a moment, imagine you are assembling a new office chair. You’re having some trouble putting it together, so someone comes over and tells you that “it’s not brain surgery” or alternatively, “it’s not rocket science.” Why do people use this phrase to mean something is “easy to do”?

The origin of this phrase likely has to do with how certain occupations are thought of as being very hard to do. For example, brain surgeons, rocket scientists, and other jobs are considered by many to be complicated. Hence, someone who uses these phrases is implying that what you’re currently doing—in this case, building an office chair— is relatively simple in comparison to what’s done in these other, more complex professions.

So, when did the saying “it’s not exactly brain surgery” originate? The earliest I could find it in print is from the 1970s, so it doesn’t look to be that old. This suggests the expression originated around that decade. The following example comes from the Ames Daily Tribune newspaper, 1971:

“He determined that his book, which is as yet untitled and will be published by Prentice-Hall late next year, would dispel the mystery and get women over the ‘original hurdle–the psycological block.’ ‘After all,’ he added, ‘it’s not like brain surgery.'”

Example Sentences

Here is an example of how this expression can be used in a sentence:

  • I was going to teach my friend how to change the tires to his car, but he was worried it would be too hard. So I told him: “Changing the tires on your car, it’s not brain surgery, you’ll pick it up quick.”

Synonym Examples:

  • The TV in our living room broke, but fixing it was a piece of cake.
  • If you don’t know how to clean out the air filters, it’s not rocket science. Let me show you.

Note: Know Your Phrase has the meaning of tons idioms and phrases. There’s a large list you can access by scrolling to the top and tapping the menu, then simply choose a letter! Or you can check out our phrase of the week! If you don’t feel like exploring, that’s okay, thanks for reading!

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