chip on one's shoulder


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a chip on (one's) shoulder

An attitude that leads one to become combative or easily angered. Fred has such a chip on his shoulder—you never know what's going to set him off next. She won't admit it, but Kate has a chip on her shoulder when it comes to discussing her career.
See also: chip, on, shoulder

chip on one's shoulder

A belligerent attitude or grievance, as in Mary is easily offended; she always has a chip on her shoulder. This term actually was defined in a newspaper article ( Long Island Telegraph, May 20, 1830): "When two churlish boys were determined to fight, a chip would be placed on the shoulder of one and the other demanded to knock it off at his peril." [Early 1800s]
See also: chip, on, shoulder

chip on one's shoulder, to have a

To be quarrelsome; to carry a grievance. This turn of phrase originated in nineteenth-century America, when, according to an article in Harper’s magazine (1857), placing a chip on a man’s shoulder and daring someone to knock it off was a provocation to fight.
See also: chip, have, on