ax to grind

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Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology 1[edit]


ax to grind (plural axes to grind)

  1. (American spelling) A proposition or point of view to advocate, especially motivated by self-interest.
    • 1966, Thomas Pynchon, chapter 4, in The Crying of Lot 49, New York: Bantam Books, published 1976, →ISBN, page 61:
      “See,” Koteks said, “if you can get them to drop their clause on patents. That, lady, is my ax to grind.”
    • 1976 July 8, New Scientist, volume 71, number 1008, page 77:
      The design has had a rather contentious journey through the various technical committees set up by the EEC to study the problem; individual member nations with particular axes to grind holding up the proceedings at regular intervals.

Etymology 2[edit]

A reference to someone sharpening an axe with the intent to kill someone.


ax to grind (plural axes to grind)

  1. (American spelling) A grudge or grievance, with implications of confrontation.
    • 2019 February 27, David Seidenberg, “A Tikkun for Tikkun Olam? How ‘To Heal the World?’ Corrupts Debate & Endangers Judaism”, in Jewish Journal[1]:
      If one is not just writing history but also trying to condemn and “demolish” one’s enemy, as Neumann is, you need a deeper level of introspection, and a high standard of proof. If not, it’s better to let “silence be a fence for wisdom.” (Pirkei Avot 3:13) It’s not possible to maintain the curiosity and openness you need for real research if you have such a big ax to grind.
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