beef

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English[edit]

A chunk of beef (1).

Etymology[edit]

From Middle English beef, bef, beof, borrowed from Anglo-Norman beof, Old French buef, boef (ox) (modern French 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:[1]

  • 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:[2] "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.[3]

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

beef (countable and uncountable, plural beef or beefs or beeves)

  1. (uncountable) The meat from a cow, bull, or other bovine.
    Synonyms: cowflesh, oxflesh
    Hyponym: veal
    I love eating beef.
    1. (in the meat industry, on product packaging) The edible portions of a cow (including those which are not meat).
    2. (by extension, slang, uncountable) Muscle or musculature; size, strength or potency.
      Put some beef into it! We've got to get the car over the bump.
      We've got to get some beef into the enforcement provisions of that law.
    3. (figuratively, slang, uncountable) Essence, content; the important part of a document or project.
      Synonym: meat
      The beef of his paper was a long rant about government.
  2. (uncountable) Bovine animals.
    • 2010 October 21, “Who's the real McCoy? Abilene's Joseph in 8 Wonders contest”, in Abilene Recorder Chronicle:
      However, there were millions of head of beef roaming the plains of Texas.
  3. (archaic, countable, plural: beeves) A single bovine (cow or bull) being raised for its meat.
    Do you want to raise beeves?
    • 1791, Homer; W[illiam] Cowper, transl., “[The Iliad.] Book XV.”, in The Iliad and Odyssey of Homer, Translated into Blank Verse, [], volume I, London: [] J[oseph] Johnson, [], OCLC 779243096, lines 398–401, page 394:
      As when two lions in the ſtill dark night / An herd of beeves ſcatter or num'rous flock / Suddenly, in the abſence of the guard, / So fled the heartleſs Greeks, []
  4. (slang, countable or uncountable, plural: beefs) 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)
    He's got a beef with everyone in the room.
    He's got beef over what you said.
    Remember what happened last fall? That's his beef with me.

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

See also[edit]

Verb[edit]

beef (third-person singular simple present beefs, present participle beefing, simple past and past participle beefed)

  1. (intransitive) To complain.
  2. (transitive) To add weight or strength to.
    Synonym: beef up
    • 1969, Hot Rod (volume 22, page 59)
      First off, the axle housing was beefed by welding areas where extreme loading is evident (black marked areas).
  3. (intransitive, slang) To fart; break wind.
    Ugh, who just beefed in here?
  4. (African-American Vernacular, intransitive, slang) To feud or hold a grudge against.
    Those two are beefing right now - best you stay out of it for now.
  5. (intransitive, chiefly Yorkshire) To cry.
    David was beefing last night after Ruth told him off.
  6. (transitive, slang) To fail or mess up.
    I beefed my presentation hard yesterday.

Derived terms[edit]

Adjective[edit]

beef (not comparable)

  1. Being a bovine animal that is being raised for its meat.
    We bought three beef calves this morning.
  2. Producing or known for raising lots of beef.
    beef farms
    beef country
  3. Consisting of or containing beef as an ingredient.
    beef stew

Related terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ “Origin of the slang AmE and BrE usage of “beef””, in StackExchange[1], (Please provide a date or year)
  2. ^ The New Canting Dictionary: Comprehending All the Terms, Ancient and Modern, Used in the Several Tribes of Gypsies, Beggars, Shoplifters, Highwaymen, Foot-pads etc. London.
  3. ^ Michael Quinion (1996–2021) , “Beefing”, in World Wide Words

Anagrams[edit]


Afrikaans[edit]

Verb[edit]

beef (present beef, present participle bewende, past participle gebeef)

  1. Alternative form of bewe

Dutch[edit]

Pronunciation[edit]

Verb[edit]

beef

  1. first-person singular present indicative of beven
  2. imperative of beven