The Meaning of Food for Thought: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of food for thought? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the phrase food for thought, including its definition, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the phrase food for thought mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language and Dictionary, the noun phrase food for thought refers to something that should be thought about or considered carefully. This term is considered a metaphor. Food for thought does not refer to real food, but the idea of digestion. Food for thought is that something is worth pondering, like the slow digestion of much food in one’s stomach. A lecture that is food for thought should not be considered on impulse. But carefully taken into serious consideration. Many different things can be considered food for thought, like new information, a quote, a teacher’s advice, or a remark from America’s leaders on poverty. The idiomatic phrase urges people to take pause and think, using the idiom food.

There are many different languages that also have their own phrases for the term food for thought. It is very useful to know how idioms are used in different languages if you’re going to be traveling or if you are speaking with someone who does not know English as a first language. Many times, different languages have very different idioms or figures of speech that they use. This list of translations for the phrase food for thought is provided by Word Sense

  •  Russian: пи́ща для размышлений‎
  •  French: matière à penser‎ (fem.)
  •  Swedish: tänkvärdheter‎
  •  Finnish: pohdittava‎
  •  Italian: spunto di riflessione‎ (masc.)
  •  Icelandic: umhugsunarefni‎ (neut.)
  •  Hungarian: elgondolkodtató‎
  •  Portuguese: alimento para a mente‎ (masc.)
  •  Mandarin: 精神食糧‎, 精神食粮‎ (jīngshén shíliáng), 思想食物‎ (sīxiǎng shíwù), (to provide food for thought) 耐人尋味‎, 耐人寻味‎ (nàirénxúnwèi), (to get people thinking) 發人深思‎, 发人深思‎ (fārénshēnsī)

What is the origin of the phrase food for thought?

According to The Idioms, The metaphoric phrase has been used since the late eighteen hundreds, although the idea behind the phrase has been expressed differently at least three hundred years prior to that. 

What are synonyms of the phrase food for thoughts?

There are a few different phrases that a person can use in place of the term food for thought. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another given word or phrase. Synonyms are a great way to expand your English vocabulary and avoid repeating yourself. Antonyms are the opposite of synonyms. This list of synonyms for the phrase food for thought is provided by Your Dictionary Thesaurus.  

  •  something to think about
  •  point to ponder
  •  something to chew on
  •  intellectual nourishment
  •  anything that provides mental stimulus for thinking
  •  reflections
  •  subject for thought 
  •  meditations

How can a person use the phrase food for thought in a sentence?

There are many different ways in which a person can use the phrase food for thought in a sentence. This term is neither considered casual or formal, so it is appropriate to use in a variety of different circumstances and settings. It would not feel out of place in a text message or social media post, nor would it feel out of place in a professional email or formal letter. This is a very versatile term that can be used in many different contexts. Below are a few examples of ways that you can use this phrase in a sentence. Try using this idiom today. You never know –  it might become one of your favorites. In this first example, Riley and Abby are chatting.

Riley: Sometimes it feels like you don’t really want me there.

Abby: What are you talking about?

Riley: Like when we’re at a party, you’re walking around meeting people and being outgoing and I’m just standing there in the corner or talking to the dog, if I’m lucky. It’s making me reconsider our whole friendship. Why am I good enough for you when we’re alone but once someone else is there, I’m nobody?

Abby: I had no idea you felt this way.

Riley: I’m not like, mad at you or anything. Just food for thought.

Abby: I understand. I promise I’ll try and be better. 

Here, Riley gives Abby food for thought about how she feels when they are in social situations together. In this next example, Abby will give Riley food for thought.

Abby: That was really embarrassing.

Riley: What do you mean?

Abby: You correcting me during every slide of that presentation. You made me look like an idiot. Here’s some food for thought for you – don’t make someone look stupid, especially when they’re your project partner.

Riley: Whoa, I’m so sorry. I really thought I was trying to improve our presentation. I can totally see how it came off that way. I’ll definitely put thought into how I can be better. 

Finally, Riley will give Abby food for thought with regard to her relationship.

Riley: Abby, he’s no good for you.

Abby: No, it’s me who’s no good for him. I need to be better if I want to marry him.

Riley: That isn’t true. Do you really want to marry a guy who’s going to boss you around, yell at you, and treat you like his mom? Food for thought.

Overall, the term food for thought means something that should be thought on and carefully considered. This uses the metaphor of someone digesting a lot of food, which takes time. Don’t take the first morsel of food and think you’re done, carefully reflect on the quote or idea that has been presented.

Sources: 

  1. food for thought: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. Food-for-thought synonyms | Best 10 synonyms for food-for-thought | Your Dictionary 
  3. Food For Thought | Definition of Food For Thought | Merriam-Webster
  4. Food for thought | Definition of Food for thought | Dictionary.com 
  5. food for thought meaning, definition, examples, origin, synonyms | The Idioms