A chunk of beef (1).



  • The meat from a cow, bull or other bovine.
  • Bovine animals.
  • A single bovine (cow or bull) being raised for its meat.
  • A grudge; dislike (of something or someone); lack of faith or trust (in something or someone); a reason for a dislike or grudge. (often + with)




  • From Middle English beef, bef, beof, borrowed from Anglo-Norman beof, Old French buef, boef (modern bœuf); from Latin bōs ("ox"), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *gʷṓws.
  • Beef in the sense of “a grudge, argument” was originally an American slang expression:
  • attested as a verb “to complain” in 1888: “He'll beef an' kick like a steer an' let on he won't never wear 'em.”— New York World, 13 May;
  • attested as a noun “complaint, protest, grievance, sim.” in 1899: “He made a Horrible Beef because he couldn't get Loaf Sugar for his Coffee.”—Fables in Slang (1900) by George Ade, page 80.
  • As to the possible origin of this American usage, it has been suggested that it can be traced back to a British expression for “alarm”, first recorded in 1725: "BEEF 'to alarm, as To cry beef upon us; they have discover'd us, and are in Pursuit of us". The term "beef" in this context would be a Cockney rhyming slang of thief. The continuous use of a similar expression, including its assumed semantic shift to 'complaint' in the United States from the 1880s onwards, needs further clarification though.

Modern English dictionary

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