Beef – What does “Beef” mean in British slang?

Hello and Welcome to Slang . I am Louisa May Adams, this is our first podcast so if you enjoy it please keep checking out what more we have in store! I am an English Language teacher living in Italy, I am originally from Canterbury England.

Have you ever noticed some of the best non native English speakers totally freak out when they visit the UK? I have and trust me, this is not because of their level of English, simply because they have never been exposed to such slang before.
So my hope is to give you listeners the chance to hear, understand the origins and meanings of new slang and to use it immediately! So let’s get started……

One of my students recently asked me, why Brits are so hung up on discussing meat, they went to London and claimed that in every other pub they went to they overheard people getting so angry while discussing if they had or hadn’t got ‘beef’.

So this word beef in fact has two meanings, both spelt the same -B E E F.
It’s most well known definition is the meat from a cow ‘beef’. However it’s commonly used by Londoner’s meaning to have a grudge, problem, or argument ‘I have a beef with them’.

It’s Origin is from American soldiers, complaining about the quantity or quality of beef rations they were given during the war, these discussions would obviously cause arguments and problems. The use of the word beef as noun meaning complaint was first recorded in the 1880s.

However we use it nowadays to talk about having a big problem with someone. For example ‘don’t invite Sophie to the party I have beef with her!’ Meaning I have issues with her so I don’t want her to come. Or another one I use frequently is I just had a bad day, don’t start any beef with me’ meaning ‘it’s been a long day, lets not fight’.

So start using it today! Start causing or defusing beef with the people around you.
That’s our word of the day.

Leave a Reply