phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

"draw a blank"

Posted by ESC on April 23, 2001

In Reply to: "Draw a blank" posted by R. Berg on April 23, 2001

: : Does anyone know of any theoris on the origin of the phrase "to draw a blank"?

: Among the Oxford English Dictionary's definitions of "blank" as a noun is "A lottery ticket which does not gain a prize." The OED gives quotations beginning in the year 1567 to illustrate that sense, and the last one (year 1824) is from Washington Irving: "When one has drawn a blank."

TO DRAW A BLANK - "To search hard but fail to find out about something. The reference is to the losing ticket in a lottery in which people buy numbered tickets to win prizes; a blank ticket wins nothing. The expression dates back to the late 19th century." From "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997)

I used it to mean the old mental computer can't crank up and retrieve a name or other fact.

See also - the meaning and origin of Draw a blank.