• Being easily offended or holding a grudge
      To describe someone who is easily provoked and has a tendency to feel resentful or angry about a past experience or situation. This can lead to a confrontational attitude and a readiness to argue or fight.

    • Feeling inferior or disadvantaged
      To describe someone who harbors a sense of being treated unfairly or unjustly, often due to a perceived disadvantage or disadvantageous circumstances. This can result in a constant need to prove oneself and a chip on the shoulder can be seen as a way to compensate for this feeling.

    • Seeking validation or recognition
      To describe someone who constantly seeks validation or recognition from others due to a lack of self-confidence or self-esteem. This can manifest as a chip on the shoulder, where the individual feels the need to prove their worth or competence to others.

Examples of A chip on your shoulder

  • After the presentation, John couldn't stop talking about how his ideas were better than everyone else's. His colleagues started to notice that he had a chip on his shoulder and became defensive whenever they suggested improvements.

    The idiom "a chip on your shoulder" refers to someone who carries around a sense of resentment or anger towards others, often as a result of feeling inferior or slighted. It can be used to describe someone who is overly defensive, competitive, or hostile. In this example, John's belief that his ideas were superior to others' led him to develop a chip on his shoulder, causing him to become defensive and resentful towards his colleagues' suggestions.


This idiom is often used to describe someone who carries a grudge or has a sensitive, defensive attitude. It can also refer to an individual who feels inferior or disadvantaged and is constantly seeking validation or recognition. In both cases, the idiom conveys a sense of insecurity and a tendency to react negatively to perceived slights or injustices.

Origin of "A chip on your shoulder"

The origin of this idiom is believed to stem from a practice in the 19th century where young boys would place a literal chip of wood on their shoulder and dare others to knock it off, as a way to provoke a fight. This behavior was seen as a sign of aggression and defiance, and the phrase "a chip on your shoulder" came to symbolize this confrontational attitude.

Over time, the idiom evolved to signify a more figurative meaning, where the "chip" came to represent a grudge or a sense of inferiority that a person carries with them. It is often used in a derogatory manner to describe someone who is easily provoked or has a chip on their shoulder, as if they are carrying a burden or a chip that needs to be knocked off.

The idiom has been used in literature and popular culture, and continues to be a commonly used phrase in modern English. It conveys a sense of defiance, insecurity, and a readiness to engage in conflict, making it a powerful and evocative idiom.