c.1300, from O.Fr. buef (11c., Mod.Fr. boeuf), from L. bovem (nom. bos, gen. bovis) "ox, cow," from PIE base *gwou- "cow, ox, bull" (see cow (n.)). Original plural was beeves.
"to complain," slang, 1888, Amer.Eng., from noun meaning "complaint" (1880s). The noun meaning "argument" is recorded from 1930s. The origin and signification are unclear; perhaps it traces to the common late 19c. complaint of U.S. soldiers about the quantity or quality of beef rations.