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Note 308 – The phrase ‘chip on your shoulder’

Where does the phrase chip on your shoulder come from and what does it mean?  Wikipedia call it a metaphor that describes people who “nurse a grudge or grievance that readily provokes fury or disputation”. Cambridge Dictionaries online define the phrase as seeming “angry all the time because you think you have been treated unfairly or feel you are not as good as other people”. According to The Phrase Finder it is “a perceived grievance or sense of inferiority”.


The Phrase Finder also explains that back in the 19th century it was “the U.S. practice of spoiling for a fight by carrying a chip of wood on one’s shoulder, daring others to knock it off”.  Quotes and explanations of a similar nature can be found in two separate American newspapers in 1830 as shown on Know your, who define it as “being angry about something that happened in the past“.


Example sentences using this phrase (and similar phrases) might be:

  • I think you have a chip on your shoulder because you get upset with me for no reason!
  • James has a chip on his shoulder about leaving school without any qualifications

That’s all for today

Until tomorrow…



About Sandra Madeira

I am a full-time working mum with a passion for writing and inspiring others. Subjects I tend to blog about are life skills, parenting, decluttering, worklife balance, etc. At the moment I am on a decluttering mission creating space in my house, garden and mind. I have challenged myself to do at least ten minutes a day and write about it. Have a good day! Sandra Freelance Writer


2 thoughts on “Note 308 – The phrase ‘chip on your shoulder’

  1. My nan used to say this a lot, but I don’t hear it much anymore.

    Thanks for the explanation hon, I always wondered 🙂


    Posted by Vikki (The View Outside) | March 4, 2012, 8:12 am

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