Axe to Grind

The idiom "axe to grind" means to have a strong personal motive or hidden agenda influencing one's actions or decisions.

Axe to Grind: Meaning and Definitions

  • The idiom “axe to grind” is used to describe a strong personal motive or ulterior motive behind one’s behavior.
  • It often implies that someone has a personal issue or a point of contention that influences their actions or perspective.
  • It can also signify a grudge or resentment that affects a person’s actions, often leading them to seek revenge or retribution.
  • The phrase may be used to denote a hidden agenda or a personal stake in a matter.
  • Furthermore, it suggests that someone is pursuing a self-serving cause under the pretense of working towards a common good.

Axe to Grind Synonyms

  1. Hidden agenda
  2. Ulterior motive
  3. Bone to pick

Example Sentences

  • Her criticisms were not impartial; she had an axe to grind with her former employer.
  • He has an axe to grind with the local council after they rejected his planning application.
  • The reporter seems to have an axe to grind, always writing negative articles about the city’s mayor.
  • She joined the committee not because she cared about the cause, but because she had an axe to grind.
  • His seemingly generous offer was not altruistic; he had an axe to grind.

The Origins and Etymology of Axe to Grind

The phrase “axe to grind” is believed to come from a fable written by Benjamin Franklin.

In the story, a cunning individual flatters a boy and tricks him into turning a grindstone to sharpen the individual’s axe.

This metaphor was then used to represent individuals with hidden, self-serving motives.

You can read more about it on Wiktionary.

douglas heingartner editor saywhatyo!
Douglas Heingartner

Douglas Heingartner, the editor of SayWhatYo!, is a journalist based in Amsterdam. He has written about science, technology, and more for publications including The New York Times, The Economist, Wired, the BBC, The Washington Post, New Scientist, The Associated Press, IEEE Spectrum, Quartz, The Village Voice, The Los Angeles Times, Frieze, and others. His Google Scholar profile is here, his LinkedIn profile is here, and his Muck Rack profile is here.