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Beef up

an act or instance of strengthening or reinforcing.
the flesh of a cow, steer, or bull raised and killed for its meat.
an adult cow, steer, or bull raised for its meat.

brawn; muscular strength.
strength; power.
weight, as of a person.
human flesh.


a complaint.
an argument or dispute.

Slang. to complain; grumble.
beef up,

to add strength, numbers, force, etc., to; strengthen:
During the riots, the nighttime patrol force was beefed up with volunteers.
to increase or add to:
to beef up our fringe benefits.

Contemporary Examples

She appeared in high-school plays and went to NYU to beef up on literature.
Gina Gershon on ‘Killer Joe,’ Tom Cruise, ‘Showgirls,’ ‘Bound’ Ramin Setoodeh July 17, 2012

After 9/11/2001, good fear prompted us to beef up transportation security.
The Year of Bad Fear—and How to End It in 2013 Jaimal Yogis December 30, 2012

This is also a show that decided that in order to get better it needed to beef up its female presence.
It’s OK to Like ‘The Big Bang Theory’ Kevin Fallon September 22, 2014

For the time being, all they desire is to beef up U.S. military spending and presence in Asia.
Leslie H. Gelb: The Dangers of Warmongering on Syria, Iran Leslie H. Gelb March 8, 2012

Inside the Park51 effort, the organizers recognize they have to beef up their public relations.
The Money Behind the Mosque Asra Q. Nomani August 19, 2010

Gabrielle Giffords in January, calls filled Washington to beef up security protection around members of Congress.
Shutdown Protection Howard Kurtz April 5, 2011

Historical Examples

Cut the beef up into tiny bits; pour boiling water over it and let it stand one minute; pour it off and squeeze the meat dry.
The Fun of Cooking Caroline French Benton

When nearly done, take vegetables out and mash them well, and also cut the beef up fine.
Housekeeping in Old Virginia Marion Cabell Tyree

The first thing they’ll do is beef up their planetary defenses to match.
Masters of Space Edward Elmer Smith

“I guess that’s why they were so anxious to get the beef up to the pasture to-night,” said Kit.
Ted Strong in Montana Edward C. Taylor

the flesh of various bovine animals, esp the cow, when killed for eating
(pl) beeves (biːvz). an adult ox, bull, cow, etc, reared for its meat
(informal) human flesh, esp when muscular
(pl) beefs. a complaint
(intransitive) (slang) to complain, esp repeatedly: he was beefing about his tax
(informal) (transitive) often foll by up. to strengthen; reinforce

“add strength,” 1941, from college slang, from beef (n.) in slang sense of “muscle-power” (1851).

c.1300, from Old French buef “ox; beef; ox hide” (11c., Modern French boeuf), from Latin bovem (nominative bos, genitive bovis) “ox, cow,” from PIE root *gwou- “cow, ox, bull” (see cow (n.)). Original plural was beeves.

“to complain,” slang, 1888, American English, from noun meaning “complaint” (1880s). The noun meaning “argument” is recorded from 1930s. The origin and signification are unclear; perhaps it traces to the common late 19c. complaint of U.S. soldiers about the quantity or quality of beef rations.

verb phrase

To strengthen; reinforce •Beef up! is attested as an exhortation to use more strength by 1890: The Patriots beefed up their defense by adding an all-star lineman (WWII armed forces and industry)


A complaint; grievance: Her mother called up to register a beef (1890s+)
A criminal charge or indictment: ”What was your beef, Jim?” ”Robbery” (1910+ Underworld)
A quarrel; argument: I’ve got no beef with you, buddy (1930s+)
A customer’s bill or check; bad news, the DAMAGE (1930s+)
Muscle; strength; huskiness (mid-1800s+)
Bulkiness; fleshiness; mass: The old chorus girls had lots of beef, not like now (mid-1800s+)
The penis (1890+)


: The hospital beefed when the city announced plans (1880s+)
To quarrel: We started beefing with each other (1930s+)

Strengthen, reinforce, as in Mary wants us to beef up her part in the play. This phrase relies on an older slang sense of beef as “muscles” or “power.” [ ; late 1800s ]
In addition to the idiom beginning with beef


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