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think tank

a research institute or organization employed to solve complex problems or predict or plan future developments, as in military, political, or social areas.
Also called think factory.
Origin of think tank
1900-05 for earlier sense “brain”; 1955-60 for current sense Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for think-tank
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Got a old maid with her to keep her company—a chapper-own, they say—which ain't in no ways illuminatin' my think-tank none.

    The Trail Horde Charles Alden Seltzer
  • You ought to be sent to Sulphur Springs and get your think-tank hoed out.

    The Uphill Climb B. M. Bower
British Dictionary definitions for think-tank


(informal) a group of specialists organized by a business enterprise, governmental body, etc, and commissioned to undertake intensive study and research into specified problems
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for think-tank

think tank


also think-tank, 1959 as "research institute" (first reference is to Center for Behavioral Sciences, Palo Alto, Calif.); it had been colloquial for "the brain" since 1905. See think + tank (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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think-tank in Culture

think tank definition

An institution in which scholars pursue research in public policy. Largely funded by endowments and grants, think tanks work to improve public awareness of policy issues (through publications) and to influence the government to act upon issues of national importance. (See power elite.)

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for think-tank



A newspaper or magazine article of intellectual virtue or pretension; a thoughtful essay: The Knightly Quest drifts off into a think-piece on the nature of romantics and the state of the nation (1947+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with think-tank

think tank

A group or organization dedicated to problem-solving and research, especially in such areas as technology, social or political strategy, and the military. For example, The congressional leaders rely too heavily on that conservative think tank. This term originated about 1900 as a facetious colloquialism for brain and was given its new meaning about 1950.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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