an ax(e) to grind
an ax(e) to grind
1. A complaint or dispute that one feels compelled to discuss. I think the boss has a bit of an axe to grind with you over the way the account was handled. If Jenny said she forgives you, then it sounds like she doesn't have an ax to grind with you after all. Hey, I've got an axe to grind with you—are you the one who stole my lunch out of the communal fridge today?
2. A personal motivation or selfish reason for saying or doing something. It was boy's-club attitudes like yours that made my time at school a living hell, so yeah, I have a bit of an ax to grind. I don't have an axe to grind here—I just want to know the truth. Those two have always been enemies, so if Henry is leading the investigation into Jerry's business practices, it's because he's got an axe to grind.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
ax to grind
A selfish aim or motive, as in The article criticized the new software, but the author had an ax to grind, as its manufacturer had fired his son . This frequently used idiom comes from a story by Charles Miner, published in 1811, about a boy who was flattered into turning the grindstone for a man sharpening his ax. He worked hard until the school bell rang, whereupon the man, instead of thanking the boy, began to scold him for being late and told him to hurry to school. "Having an ax to grind" then came into figurative use for having a personal motive for some action. [Mid-1800s]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
axe to grind
A selfish or ulterior aim: He claimed to be disinterested, but I knew he had an axe to grind.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
ax to grind, an
A selfish motive. Allegedly this term comes from a cautionary tale by Charles Miner, first published in 1810, about a boy persuaded to turn the grindstone for a man sharpening his ax. The work not only was difficult to do but also made him late for school. Instead of praising the youngster, the man then scolded him for truancy and told him to hurry to school. Other sources attribute it to a similar story recounted by Benjamin Franklin. Whichever its origin, the term was frequently used thereafter and apparently was a cliché by the mid-nineteenth century.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer