To have an axe to grind
What does it mean?
If someone has an axe to grind, it could either mean that they have strong personal reasons for doing something, or that they want to have a discussion or argument over something.
Where does it come from?
Although it is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, this phrase original comes from Charles Miner’s Who’ll Turn Grindstone, first published in 1810. In this text, a boy (the author) is tricked into grinding an axe by flattery which conceals this hidden agenda.
How can I use it?
Perhaps the easiest way to use this phrase is to say that someone has an axe to grind. E.g.
- Sarah has an axe to grind.
- Martin seems to have an axe to grind.
We could also use the construction noun phrase + with + an axe to grind. For example:
- There were several journalists with an axe to grind.
- He’s a world-renowned food critic with an axe to grind.
Typically we extend this phrase using with or against. For example:
- She has an axe to grind with her boss.
- He has an axe to grind against his former employers.
What are some examples?
- I don’t know why she is so mean to you. She seems to have an axe to grind.
- The presidential press conference was joined by many journalists with an axe to grind.
- Since losing his job, he’s had an axe to grind against his former employers.
What are some similar or related expressions?
- to have a bone to pick