I use this word mostly in the informal mode where it means a nagging complaint or a constant grumble.
The formal meaning of the word is to suffer pain in the bowels or seize and hold firmly.
The word gripe came to my mind this evening as I am trying to work on a research project for uni and I feel like I have a gripe with or about my tutor.
Why do I find writing essays and doing research so difficult. Procrastination is so much easier and more fun :-)
O.E. gripan "grasp at, lay hold, attack, take, seek to get hold of," from P.Gmc. *gripanan (cf. O.S. gripan, O.N. gripa, Du. grijpen, Goth. greipan, O.H.G. grifan, Ger. greifen "to seize"), from PIE base *ghreib- "to grip" (cf. Lith. griebiu "to seize"). Figurative sense of "complain, grouse" is first attested 1932, probably from earlier meaning "gripping pain in the bowels" (c.1600; cf. bellyache). Related: Griped; griping. As a noun, late 14c., from the verb. Figurative sense by 1934.