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.
  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.

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 beeves

Historical Examples of beeves

  • They had with them 200 pack-horses laden with flour, and the remainder of the beeves.

    Chronicles of Border Warfare

    Alexander Scott Withers

  • They reminded him of the beeves in the shambles of the elder Varro.

    The Lion's Brood

    Duffield Osborne

  • The whole 3,500 head of beeves will be shipped East this fall.

    Across America

    James F. Rusling

  • We thence all marched to the mines, where we killed three beeves to feed the Indians.

  • Far away to the right are two of our scouts driving two beeves.

    Pony Tracks

    Frederic Remington

British Dictionary definitions for beeves


  1. archaic the plural of beef (def. 2)


  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

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 beeves

original plural of beef (cf. boevz, plural of Old French buef), now only in restricted use.



"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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with beeves


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.