Bone to Pick – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a phrase you can use to confront someone about an issue between you? You can use “bone to pick” to tell them that you want to have a stern chat with them. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The expression “bone to pick” means that you want to confront another person or group about a specific topic. It means that you have something that you’ve been thinking about for some time, and you’re ready to confront the person to hear what they have to say about it.

If you “pick a bone” with someone, you’re usually talking about a heated topic, such as a betrayal of trust. It’s a “hard talk” with the other person, and there is a good chance that it will end in an argument. To “pick a bone” with someone means that you’re confronting someone that you know about something they said about you behind your back.

Example Usage

“Hey Mike, I have a bone to pick with you. Why did you tell Halley that you saw me out with Cindy on the weekend? Why are you interfering in my business.”

“Listen, Sam, I have a bone to pick with you. You’re always leaving the toilet seat up, and it’s driving me nuts.”

“I’m going down to the council now. I have a bone to pick with these people over how they charge rates. They’ve been overcharging for months, and I’m fed up with it.”

“Why do I have to come to you every time and air my grievances? It seems like I always have a bone to pick with you, and I’m getting tired of it.”

“I have a bone to pick with you. There was that one time when you said to Tommy that I was a hustler and didn’t trust me. What do you have to say about that?”

“I have a bone to pick with you over the Carter proposal. How can you commit resources to that project when you already know you were overworking the team?”


The expression “a bone to pick” originates from the 16th century. The early use of the phrase was literal, referring to picking or gnawing on a bone to strip it of its meat. However, this saying developed its modern meaning a few hundred years later.

A similar phrase, “a bone of contention,” originates from two dogs fighting over a bone to see who gets the spoils. Both sayings have a similar meaning and were in use at around the same time.

However, language experts believe “pick a bone” is the shortened version of the longer saying. As it became more popular in language and conversation, people went with the shorter version o the saying, as they do with many other abbreviated idioms.

Phrases Similar to Bone to Pick

  • Something to say.
  • Give a talking to.

Phrases Opposite to Bone to Pick

  • Let it go.
  • Don’t stress.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Bone to pick.

Ways People May Say Bone to Pick Incorrectly

The phrase has nothing to do with picking bones. The bone is a topic of discussion relating to other people’s actions or words against you. “Picking” means that you want to have a stern chat about the issue at hand with the other person.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Bone to Pick

You can use the phrase “bone to pick” when telling someone that you have something to confront them about. Usually, the confrontation involves a hostile or malicious intention. It’s also a way of telling someone that you intend to enact revenge upon them. The phrase suits social and professional use.

Use it at the office to confront a disgruntled co-worker about saying things to the boss behind your back. Or use it at home to tell your kids you want to talk to them about leaving the toilet seat down. Depending on the situation, the phrase can suit a mild or serious threatening tone.

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