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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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    What leads you to believe they might not be correct? I will say that while "she has attitude" can be correct in the right context, "She has an attitude" is a far more prevalent statement- at least in the parts of the US that I frequent.
    – Jim
    Jul 4, 2014 at 5:04
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    @Jim I feel, saying "she has attitude" does not convey the right message. It might mean she has positive/good attitude or negative/bad attitude.
    – Ankur Arya
    Jul 4, 2014 at 5:12
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    @Doctor- And you'd be exactly right. The context in which it is uttered (and the intonation of the speaker) should help pinpoint the intent. It doesn't mean it's wrong it just means it can't stand completely on its own.
    – Jim
    Jul 4, 2014 at 5:14
  • Why the downvote?
    – Ankur Arya
    Jul 4, 2014 at 5:25
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    "Jane's got attitude" can be taken a number of different ways and is fairly context-dependent. It can be positive, meaning that Jane is pleasantly assertive and forthright, or it can be negative, meaning she's disagreeable and unpleasant. If one were to hear "Jane has an attitude," on the other hand, that would almost certainly have negative connotations.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 18, 2014 at 2:02

6 Answers 6

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Attitude:

  • 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.

Do you have an attitude?

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?

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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.

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  • Thanks for the answer but @Josh61's answer makes more sense to me.
    – Ankur Arya
    Jul 4, 2014 at 5:50
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Having "attitude" the way I've heard it used, is usually a sort of compliment from a boss/superior/mentor (generally an older authority figure) to describe the sort of outlook and behavior someone working with them should have. It usually describes confidence and assertiveness without crossing the line into arrogance or self importance. It can also be used from one colleague to compliment another's work ethic. Generally, I just see it used most often in professional settings rather than casual or familiar settings.

Given, I more often see it phrased as having "the attitude" or even "the right attitude" (but this variation can be used more broadly), or listing attitude as one of many stand alone virtuous traits to have ("you need to have style, class, attitude, etc."). And as many people already pointed out, having "an attitude" is different.

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The following dictionary definitions are clear:

Cambridge Dictionary

Attitude noun (CONFIDENCE)

If you say that someone has attitude, you mean that they are very confident and want people to notice them.

Collins Dictionary:

  1. UNCOUNTABLE NOUN

If you refer to someone as a person with attitude, you mean that they have a striking and individual style of behaviour, especially a forceful or aggressive one.

The answers to the question on Quora.com "What is the meaning when someone says "she got an attitude"? Is it a negative or positive term?" are also noteworthy.

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  • Just to note that "having attitude" and "having an attitude" are different things.
    – Greybeard
    Dec 26, 2021 at 11:40
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It seems to me that to accuse someone of "having an attitude" is making a person look bad without giving specifics.

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  • I may be mistaken, but the question seems to ask for "he’s got attitude" versus "he's got AN attitude".
    – tchrist
    Nov 18, 2014 at 2:06
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Generally, it means the person is always rude and disrespectful. I think someone who has an attitude problem should be treated as an outcast unless the person has bipolar disorder. That, I can understand.

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  • The answer box is only for answers, i.e. the OP is asking what does "has an attitude" mean. He is not asking why or how people who have an attitude should be viewed or treated.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 29, 2014 at 7:48
  • Were you in a hurry to read the whole thing? Because you missed the part where I stated "Generally, it means the person is always rude and disrespectful." So, yes I did answer his question. Thank you very much. Nov 30, 2014 at 16:54

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