[ beef ]
See synonyms for beef on
noun,plural beeves [beevz] /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.

  1. Informal.

    • brawn; muscular strength.

    • strength; power.

    • weight, as of a person.

    • human flesh.

  2. Slang.

    • a complaint.

    • an argument or dispute.

verb (used without object)
  1. Slang. to complain; grumble.

Verb Phrases
  1. beef up,

    • to add strength, numbers, force, etc., to; strengthen: During the riots, the nighttime patrol force was beefed up with volunteers.

    • to increase or add to: to beef up our fringe benefits.

Origin of beef

First recorded in 1250–1300; 1885–90 for def. 5; Middle English, from Anglo-French beof, Old French boef, from Latin bov- (stem of bōs ) “ox, cow”; akin to cow1

Other words from beef

  • beefless, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use beef in a sentence

  • He had come down in his gig, to confer with Hilton as to the newly beefed-up fleet.

    Masters of Space | Edward Elmer Smith
  • The ship, vastly beefed up, was moving at a good fraction of the speed of light.

    Tulan | Carroll Mather Capps
  • Have you forgot how I fatted up the old cow and beefed her so that you could go and monkey with youclid and algebray?

    Remarks | Bill Nye
  • Spotting him through the crack, Neff had simply beefed into the foot-thick slab of fireproof steel.

    Brown John's Body | Winston Marks
  • They believe,” said Baird, “that they can handle the Niccola with their beefed-up tractor beams.

    The Aliens | Murray Leinster

British Dictionary definitions for beef


/ (biːf) /

  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

  1. informal human flesh, esp when muscular

  2. plural beefs a complaint

  1. (intr) slang to complain, esp repeatedly: he was beefing about his tax

  2. (tr often foll by up) informal to strengthen; reinforce

Origin of 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

Other 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.