Have a beef

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Have a beef is an idiomatic phrase that has been in use for over one hundred years. We will examine the meaning of the idiom have a beef, where it may have come from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

The idiom to have a beef means to have a complaint about something, to have a disagreement with someone, to be dissatisfied with something. This idiomatic use of the word beef may be used as a noun or a verb, as in to beef about something. The word beef to mean a complaint, disagreement or dissatisfaction came into use in the United States in the 1880s. The origin of this term is unknown. Some speculate that it refers to two beefy–meaning muscular–men settling a dispute with violence. Others believe it is tied to the Cockney rhyming slang, “hot beef” which means “stop thief.” How this would have traveled to the United States is unknown. Others believe it may have something to do with the competition between ranchers and farmers during the days of American pioneering. The word beef is is derived from the Old French word buef, which means the flesh of cows or oxen.


“I don’t know, I think of it as music that no one really has a beef with.” (The Hartford Courant)

He said the organization also has a beef with Beyond Meat’s use of an image of a cow — albeit one wearing a superhero cape — in its logo. (The Calgary Herald)

Many Rangers players weren’t familiar with why Laureano and Canha had a beef with Sampson and found out only after things transpired. (The Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Mahad Ali’s mother told detectives that her son and the victim had “a beef” that stretched back months, prosecutors said. (The Minneapolis Star Tribune)

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