have an ax to grind

noun, plural ax·es [ak-siz] /ˈæk sɪz/.

  1. an instrument with a bladed head on a handle or helve, used for hewing, cleaving, chopping, etc.
  2. Jazz Slang. any musical instrument.
  3. the ax, Informal.
    1. dismissal from employment: to get the ax.
    2. expulsion from school.
    3. rejection by a lover, friend, etc.: His girlfriend gave him the ax.
    4. any usually summary removal or curtailment.

verb (used with object), axed, ax·ing.

  1. to shape or trim with an ax.
  2. to chop, split, destroy, break open, etc., with an ax: The firemen had to ax the door to reach the fire.
  3. Informal. to dismiss, restrict, or destroy brutally, as if with an ax: The main office axed those in the field who didn’t meet their quota. Congress axed the budget.
  1. have an ax to grind, to have a personal or selfish motive: His interest may be sincere, but I suspect he has an ax to grind.

see axe (n.).


  1. axis

To have a selfish motive or personal stake in a matter: “When the lobbyist approached the senators, they suspected he had an ax to grind.”

In addition to the idiom beginning with ax

  • ax to grind

also see:

  • get the ax
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