have a chip on (one's) shoulder

have a chip on (one's) shoulder

To have 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, have, on, shoulder
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

have a chip on your shoulder

COMMON If someone has a chip on their shoulder, they feel angry and resentful because they think that they have been treated unfairly, especially because of their background. She thinks he has a chip on his shoulder because he didn't go to university. Note: You can also use chip-on-shoulder or chip-on-the-shoulder before a noun. This sort of chip-on-the-shoulder nationalism makes neighbouring countries nervous. Note: There is a story that in America in the past, men sometimes balanced a small piece of wood on one shoulder in the hope that someone would knock it off and give them an excuse to start a fight.
See also: chip, have, on, shoulder
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

have a ˈchip on your shoulder

(informal) be sensitive about something that happened in the past and easily offended if it is mentioned, because you think you were treated unfairly: He’s got a chip on his shoulder about not having been to college.This idiom comes from a nineteenth-century US custom. If a boy wanted to fight, he put a small piece of wood on his shoulder. He would begin a fight with whoever knocked the chip of wood off his shoulder.
See also: chip, have, on, shoulder
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

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, to
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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