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.
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.
The following dictionary definitions are clear:
Attitude noun (CONFIDENCE)
If you say that someone has attitude, you mean that they are very confident and want people to notice them.
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.