< /bivz/ for 2; beefs for 4.

  1. the flesh of a cow, steer, or bull raised and killed for its meat.
  2. an adult cow, steer, or bull raised for its meat.
  3. Informal.
    1. brawn; muscular strength.
    2. strength; power.
    3. weight, as of a person.
    4. human flesh.
  4. Slang.
    1. a complaint.
    2. an argument or dispute.

verb (used without object)

  1. Slang. to complain; grumble.

Verb Phrases

  1. beef up,
    1. to add strength, numbers, force, etc., to; strengthen: During the riots, the nighttime patrol force was beefed up with volunteers.
    2. to increase or add to: to beef up our fringe benefits.


  1. the flesh of various bovine animals, esp the cow, when killed for eating
  2. plural beeves (biːvz) an adult ox, bull, cow, etc, reared for its meat
  3. informal human flesh, esp when muscular
  4. plural beefs a complaint


  1. (intr) slang to complain, esp repeatedlyhe was beefing about his tax
  2. (tr often foll by up) informal to strengthen; reinforce

“to complain,” slang, 1888, American English, from noun meaning “complaint” (1880s). The noun meaning “argument” is recorded from 1930s. The origin and signification are unclear; perhaps it traces to the common late 19c. complaint of U.S. soldiers about the quantity or quality of beef rations.


c.1300, from Old French buef “ox; beef; ox hide” (11c., Modern French boeuf), from Latin bovem (nominative bos, genitive bovis) “ox, cow,” from PIE root *gwou- “cow, ox, bull” (see cow (n.)). Original plural was beeves.

In addition to the idiom beginning with beef

  • beef up

also see:

  • where’s the beef
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