Is it natural to use this idiomatic expression in the following context? I want to say that I am not sure but probably it was about six years ago.

So a few years ago, err, six years ago off the top of my head, when my daughter was in primary school. we went to ...

According to dictionary it can be used to mean "from the knowledge you have in your memory". But I am just talking about a personal experience. In the examples I have seen, it is usually used to talk about knowledge that can be verified using some sources of information, but the speaker has not verified it yet. It seems that they have seen the data somewhere, but right now they are just telling it from their memory. For example:

  • "What's the capital of Mauritania?" "I don't know off the top of my head, but I could go and look it up."
  • "How much can we expect to earn this quarter?" B: "Off the top of my head, it should be around $200,000, but I'll have to check the
    figures when I get to the office."

But in my sentence, I am using this expression to talk about a very personal thing which is in no way can be verified using a book, chart or any kind of data from another source. So maybe using "off the top of my head" is not appropriate for personal things? I mean the things that I haven't seen somewhere but something that I just know.

  • 2
    Yes, I think you can use it if you mean 'without stopping to make calculations, confirm the date with my wife or daughter, etc.' Jul 21, 2021 at 8:00

2 Answers 2


Its used generally to mean something like,

This is my good faith quick impression or answer without having yet considered it in depth or checked other information. If I looked into it more deeply, thought about it more thoroughly, or looked elsewhere for information, I might revise that answer. But without any of those, and without taking undue time, this is my immediate thought.

Its often used for casual matters, in casual conversation, or where speed matters more than precision, or where a rough idea matters which can be refined later if necessary, or where detailed checking would be overkill.

As such its very much used for personal things.

  • My dad's coughing a lot. Off the top of my head I'd guess its bronchitis again. We'll see, when the doctor gets here.
  • I can't tell until he gets an X-ray, but off the top of my head I'd say its probably fractured.
  • You went to Italy? Me too! Off the top of my head maybe 20... perhaps 25 years ago, I think.
  • Why am I a Vegan? Off the top of my head, I can think of 3 good reasons...
  • Why not donate to that charity? Off the top of my head, weren't they in the news a few years ago? Some kind of fraud?

According to several sources it can perfectly be used for personal things - all definitions I've found never mention what the thing on your head has to be about.

Also, for what it's worth, it's totally understandable.

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