I've heard many people say
He/she has attitude
What they really mean is that the person has ego or something like that. I googled and find this Yahoo answer, which also suggest the same.
Are they correct in saying that?
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- a complex mental state involving beliefs and feelings and values and dispositions to act in certain ways; "he had the attitude that work was fun"
To have an attitude is a little difficult to define. It is generally used to mean that you behave somewhat arrogantly or disrespectfully.
When we hear that question we generally think of someone with a negative outlook on a particular topic, thing or person. This is witnessed all the time. “She has an attitude” you’ve heard someone say, generally meaning that the person is negative or disagreeable or just has a bad outlook on life.
But what about the other side of an attitude, the positive side that moves you in the right direction?
Have a look at sense 6 of attitude in the OED, with a few quotations from there.
a. Aggressive or uncooperative behaviour; a resentful or antagonistic manner. In phrs. to cop an attitude , to give attitude , etc., to assume such a manner. slang (orig. U.S.).
1985 N.Y. Times 26 Oct. 31/4 If I'm out there for months with everybody yelling at me, I'm going to cop an attitude.
1990 L. Lane & N. L. Andrews Malibu 90265 ii. 18 No wonder the saleswoman had an attitude... A zero had just dropped off the end of her commission.
1991 Athlon's Baseball '91 IV. 25/1 Bonds developed what is called an attitude. Underneath it all he is a nice kid.
b. Hence, any highly independent or individual outlook, approach, appearance, etc.; self-possession; style, swagger, front; esp. in with (an) attitude . slang (orig. U.S.).
... 1990 Police Rev. 28 Sept. 1916/1 In this job, you gotta have attitude, hang loose, ready for anything.
1992 Face Feb. 44/1 The not-entirely-unattractive cast—spearheaded by Jason Priestley and Luke Perry as hunks with not much attitude Brandon and Dylan—set a good few pulses racing and hogged the covers of the nation's teen press.
You have the uncomplimentary assessment (sense a: uncooperative behaviour), which gave rise to the positive assessment (sense b: self-possession). Both are in use, and context is crucial, although my sense is that we are more likely to say 'an attitude' for sense a.