Definition of beef in English:

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Pronunciation: /bēf/


Image of beef
1The flesh of a cow, bull, or ox, used as food.
Example sentences
  • Tuck into steak, roast beef, venison and other red meat at least three times a week
  • I have to say that the roast rib eye of beef in wholemeal bread was superb.
  • Visitors can barbecue food ranging from beef, pork to potato and fish.
1.1 (plural beeves /bēvz/) Farming A cow, bull, or ox fattened for its meat.
Example sentences
  • ‘Get in those saddles and let's get these beeves movin’!’
  • Forage beef thus encompasses at least half of the potential market.
  • We have a neighbor who raises grass fed beef and pastured poultry.
1.2 informal Flesh or muscle, typically when well developed: he needs a little more beef on his bones
More example sentences
  • Although this is typically a powerlifter's split, it is the quickest way to get some serious beef on your bones.
  • He's got a bit more beef on his bones now, but he's lost none of his cheerful, boyish looks.
  • Geez, how about a Superman with some beef on his bones?
muscle, brawn, bulk;
strength, power
1.3 informal Strength or power: he’s been brought in to give the team more beef
More example sentences
  • We definitely need more beef up front.
  • The tank size is OK, but you need more beef.
  • Yes, I know their defense looked good most of the season and Simon was good addition, I just feel they still need more beef up the middle and Wright is, I think, an active playmaker who can stuff the run.
2 (plural beefs) informal A complaint or grievance: he has a beef with American education: it doesn’t teach the basics of investing
More example sentences
  • Here's another one of my beefs with judges - and this is the complaint that lawyers oftentimes get - that we file frivolous lawsuits.
  • I do not want beefs and gripes - I need genuine areas of difficulty which are causing work life imbalance.
  • They began taking their beefs to the media.
complaint, criticism, objection, cavil, quibble, grievance, grumble, gripe, grouse
3US informal A criminal charge: a drunk-driving beef
More example sentences
  • After checking police reports and court documents, the website said that if anything, he may have spent a day or so in jail for a drunk driving beef.
  • He was framed for political reasons during the last election and was sent up for a 21 years on a homicide beef.
  • He had busted him on a robbery beef involving a cellular phone.


[no object] informal
Complain: he was beefing about how the recession was killing the business
More example sentences
  • Because of that he still felt like beefing about something
  • As I tell my students when they beef about my tests: Life isn't multiple choice, True-False or an Essay question; more often than not it's short answer--and your grade is based on your understanding of the context of the question.
  • They beef about record-level deficits.
complain, grumble, whine, carp, bitch, gripe, bellyache

Phrasal verbs

beef something up

informal Give more substance or strength to something: cost-cutting measures are planned to beef up performance
More example sentences
  • So those penalties will be beefed up substantially.
  • These checkpoints were beefed up following a number of casualties, wounds and death to U.S. forces.
  • So far protests from campaigners have been muted, but security around the base has been beefed up with additional police patrols.
toughen up, strengthen, build up, reinforce, consolidate, augment, improve


Middle English: from Old French boef, from Latin bos, bov- 'ox'.

  • We often find that after the Norman Conquest people used French words for an animal's meat and the English word for the animal itself. Beef is from French, and cow and ox are native English words, whereas bull was adopted from Scandinavian. Beef, meaning ‘a complaint’ or ‘to complain’, was originally American, from the mid 19th century. The first person to write of the kind of beef possessed by a muscular man was American writer Herman Melville (1819–91), author of Moby-Dick. The British are so well known for eating beef that a French insult for an Englishman is un rosbif (‘a roast beef’). In English too, beefeater (early 17th century) was originally a term of contempt for a well-fed domestic servant. Now a Beefeater is a Yeoman Warder or Yeoman of the Guard at the Tower of London, a nickname first used in 1671.

Words that rhyme with beef

aperitif, belief, brief, chief, enfeoff, fief, grief, interleaf, leaf, Leif, lief, Mazar-e-Sharif, misbelief, motif, naif, O'Keeffe, reef, seif, Sharif, sheaf, shereef, sportif, Tenerife, thief

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: beef

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