- melancholy mood accompanied by deep thought
- a moody daydream
- not paying attention or concentrating on the matter in hand
- intense, or deep absorption in own thoughts
- a state of abstraction, absent-mindedness, or deep thought
- black mood
- gloomy meditations
- I realised that Sandra wasn’t concentrating on what the boss was saying and had disappeared into a brown study.
- Jack was lost in a brown study and had been like that all day.
- Chloe was so engrossed in a brown study that she didn’t hear the doorbell.
- He was so deep in a brown study on his way home that he missed his turning.
- Tanya often finds herself in a brown study, that is, in a state of deep (and usually gloomy) meditation.
Brown study is an old English expression that’s related to emotions and colours. It seems that Brown was once the colour of feeling down or sad as we associate with the colour blue today.
The earliest printed record of the phrase can be traced back to 1532 in a book called Dice-Play:
“Lack of company will soon lead a man into a brown study.”
It appears in many literary works from the 16th century onwards. Famous writer Charles Dickens uses the phrase in his eighth novel David Copperfield published in November 1850, it says:
“I fell into a brown study as I walked on, and a voice inside my head made me start.”
Also, in Eight Cousins by an American novelist Louisa May Alcott, published in 1875:
“Sometimes he frowned, sometimes he smiled, and more than once he stood still in a brown study.”
It must have been in regular usage back then if the readers of these books understood that Brown was associated with sadness and melancholy.