Axe to Grind – Idiom, Meaning & Origin

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

To have an axe to grind means you have a personal agenda or a grievance, often rooted in deep-seated emotions or experiences. This idiom originally started with the literal grinding of axes but has since evolved over time to symbolize holding onto a strong opinion or vendetta.

Idioms are phrases or expressions that cannot be understood by interpreting their individual words directly. They infuse conversations with depth, character, and cultural context, turning plain statements into evocative expressions. So, if you’ve got an axe to grind with understanding idioms, keep reading this quick guide!

Axe to Grind Meaning Explained

Axe to Grind – Idiom Meaning Origin

When someone says they have an axe to grind, it can span from minor grievances to significant grudges. It might be a feud with a co-worker or a deep-seated dislike for a particular food. Essentially, it implies you have a personal stake involved; it’s as if you’re not just a bystander but someone with steel sharpening away on the grindstone.

Is It Axe to Grind or Ax to Grind?

Axe to Grind vs. Ax to Grind Ngram
Axe to grind and ax to grind usage trend.

While axe is primarily used in British English and ax is favored in American English, the phrase axe to grind typically retains the “e” in many English-speaking regions. However, both spellings are acceptable, so feel free to use the one that aligns with your preference or audience.

Origin and Etymology of the Idiom Axe to Grind

The phrase axe to grind has roots that are quite direct, dating back to the early 19th century. Charles Miner, in a penned essay, told a tale of a young lad deceived into manually sharpening an actual axe by turning the grindstone. Yet, upon completion, instead of gratitude, the boy faced the man’s ire for being tardy for school. This literal narrative has since evolved, giving birth to the idiom we use today to describe personal motives or grievances.

Synonyms for an Axe to Grind

As with most sayings, there’s always another way to express it. Try switching up your writing with a few of these alternatives to the saying axe to grind.

  • Bone to pick
  • Personal agenda
  • Ulterior motive
  • Hidden agenda
  • Chip on your shoulder

Using Axe to Grind in Sentence Examples

Axe to Grind – Idiom Meaning Origin 1

  • Charlotte has an axe to grind with her new boss ever since she was passed over for promotion.
  • Listen, I have no axe to grind; I just want what’s best for everyone.
  • It’s clear my father has an axe to grind with the school system.
  • Some journalists seem to have an axe to grind against celebrities. Don’t they?
  • Arnold had an axe to grind, which is why he was so aggressive in the debate.
  • People often have an axe to grind when they write online reviews for products these days.
  • My neighbor always seems to have an axe to grind over the smallest issues.
  • My wife’s not biased; she has no axe to grind.
  • Their research is impartial, and they don’t have an axe to grind.
  • I’ve got an axe to grind with anyone who disrespects the environment.

Grind That Axe

From literal grindstones to metaphorical grievances, the phrase axe to grind covers it all. Now you have the perfect idiom to describe hidden agendas and seedy vendettas. For even more cool idioms just like this one, have a look at my other quick guides to beef up your vocabulary.