noun, plural beeves [beevz] /bivz/ for 2; beefs for 4.

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

verb (used without object)

Slang. to complain; grumble.

Verb Phrases

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.

Origin of beef

1250–1300; 1885–90 for def 5; Middle English < Anglo-French beof, Old French boef < Latin bov- (stem of bōs) ox, cow; akin to cow1
Related formsbeef·less, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for beef

Contemporary Examples of beef

Historical Examples of beef

  • A roast of beef meant a visit, in Dr. Ed's modest-paying clientele.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • Falling in with an American in the Bay of Biscay, we got a barrel of beef which lasted us in.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • We were out of pork and beef, and our fire-wood was nearly gone.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • Come, man, you must be as hungry as a hawk—a slice of the beef?

    Night and Morning, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

  • In carving a round of beef, slice it horizontally and very thin.

British Dictionary definitions for beef



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


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

Word Origin for beef

C13: from Old French boef, from Latin bōs ox; see cow 1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for beef

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.


"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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with beef


In addition to the idiom beginning with beef

  • beef up

also see:

  • where's the beef
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.