chip on one’s shoulder

chip on one’s shoulder


  1. a small, slender piece, as of wood, separated by chopping, cutting, or breaking.
  2. a very thin slice or small piece of food, candy, etc.: chocolate chips.
  3. a mark or flaw made by the breaking off or gouging out of a small piece: This glass has a chip.
  4. any of the small round disks, usually of plastic or ivory, used as tokens for money in certain gambling games, as roulette or poker; counter.
  5. Also called microchip. Electronics. a tiny slice of semiconducting material, generally in the shape of a square a few millimeters long, cut from a larger wafer of the material, on which a transistor or an entire integrated circuit is formed.Compare microprocessor.
  6. a small cut or uncut piece of a diamond or crystal.
  7. anything trivial or worthless.
  8. something dried up or without flavor.
  9. a piece of dried dung: buffalo chips.
  10. wood, straw, etc., in thin strips for weaving into hats, baskets, etc.
  11. Golf. chip shot.
  12. Tennis. a softly sliced return shot with heavy backspin.
  13. the strip of material removed by a recording stylus as it cuts the grooves in a record.
  14. chips, Chiefly British. French fries.

verb (used with object), chipped, chip·ping.

  1. to hew or cut with an ax, chisel, etc.
  2. to cut, break off, or gouge out (bits or fragments): He chipped a few pieces of ice from the large cube.
  3. to disfigure by breaking off a fragment: to chip the edge of a saucer.
  4. to shape or produce by cutting or flaking away pieces: to chip a figure out of wood.
  5. Games. to bet by means of chips, as in poker.
  6. Tennis. to slice (a ball) on a return shot, causing it to have heavy backspin.
  7. Slang. to take (a narcotic drug) occasionally, especially only in sufficient quantity to achieve a mild euphoria.
  8. Chiefly British Sports. to hit or kick (a ball) a short distance forward.
  9. British Slang. to jeer or criticize severely; deride; taunt.
  10. Australian. to hoe; harrow.

verb (used without object), chipped, chip·ping.

  1. to break off in small pieces.
  2. Golf. to make a chip shot.

Verb Phrases

  1. chip in,
    1. to contribute money or assistance; participate.
    2. bet a chip or chips, as in poker.
    3. to interrupt a conversation to say something; butt in: We all chipped in with our suggestions for the reunion.
  1. chip off the old block, a person who resembles one parent in appearance or behavior: His son is just a chip off the old block.
  2. chip on one’s shoulder, a disposition to quarrel: You will never make friends if you go around with a chip on your shoulder.
  3. in the chips, Slang. wealthy; rich: Don’t look down on your old friends now that you’re in the chips.
  4. when the chips are down, in a discouraging or disadvantageous situation; in bad or pressing times: When the chips are down he proves to be a loyal friend.


  1. a small piece removed by chopping, cutting, or breaking
  2. a mark left after a small piece has been chopped, cut, or broken off something
  3. (in some games) a counter used to represent money
  4. a thin strip of potato fried in deep fat
  5. US and Canadian a very thin slice of potato fried and eaten cold as a snackAlso called (in Britain and certain other countries): crisp
  6. a small piece or thin slice of food
  7. sport a shot, kick, etc, lofted into the air, esp over an obstacle or an opposing player’s head, and travelling only a short distance
  8. electronics a tiny wafer of semiconductor material, such as silicon, processed to form a type of integrated circuit or component such as a transistor
  9. a thin strip of wood or straw used for making woven hats, baskets, etc
  10. NZ a container for soft fruit, made of thin sheets of wood; punnet
  11. cheap as chips British informal inexpensive; good value
  12. chip off the old block informal a person who resembles one of his or her parents in behaviour
  13. have a chip on one’s shoulder informal to be aggressively sensitive about a particular thing or bear a grudge
  14. have had one’s chips British informal to be defeated, condemned to die, killed, etc
  15. when the chips are down informal at a time of crisis or testing

verb chips, chipping or chipped

  1. to break small pieces from or become broken off in small pieceswill the paint chip?
  2. (tr) to break or cut into small piecesto chip ice
  3. (tr) to shape by chipping
  4. sport to strike or kick (a ball) in a high arc

early 15c., “to chip” (intransitive, of stone); from Old English forcippian “to pare away by cutting, cut off,” verbal form of cipp “small piece of wood” (see chip (n.)). Transitive meaning “to cut up, cut or trim” is from late 15c. Sense of “break off fragments” is 18c. To chip in “contribute” (1861) is American English, perhaps from card-playing. Related: Chipped; chipping. Chipped beef attested from 1826.


Old English cipp “piece of wood,” perhaps from PIE root *keipo- “sharp post” (cf. Dutch kip “small strip of wood,” Old High German kipfa “wagon pole,” Old Norse keppr “stick,” Latin cippus “post, stake, beam;” the Germanic words perhaps borrowed from Latin).

Meaning “counter used in a game of chance” is first recorded 1840; electronics sense is from 1962. Used for thin slices of foodstuffs (originally fruit) since 1769; specific reference to potatoes is found by 1859 (in “A Tale of Two Cities”); potato chip is attested by 1879. Meaning “piece of dried dung” first attested 1846, American English.

Chip of the old block is used by Milton (1642); earlier form was chip of the same block (1620s); more common modern phrase with off in place of of is early 20c. To have a chip on one’s shoulder is 1830, American English, from the custom of a boy determined to fight putting a wood chip on his shoulder and defying another to knock it off.


“break caused by chipping,” 1889, from chip (v.).

  1. See integrated circuit.

A belligerent attitude or grievance: “Joe really has a chip on his shoulder; every time I say something to him, he takes it the wrong way.” In the past, a young boy would place a wood chip on his shoulder and dare anyone to knock it off as a way of showing how tough he was.

A belligerent attitude or grievance, as in Mary is easily offended; she always has a chip on her shoulder. This term actually was defined in a newspaper article (Long Island Telegraph, May 20, 1830): “When two churlish boys were determined to fight, a chip would be placed on the shoulder of one and the other demanded to knock it off at his peril.” [Early 1800s]

In addition to the idioms beginning with chip

  • chip and dip
  • chip in
  • chip off the old block
  • chip on one’s shoulder

also see:

  • cash in (one’s chips)
  • in the money (chips)
  • let the chips fall where they may
  • when the chips are down
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