a long-eared, slow, patient, sure-footed domesticated mammal, Equus asinus, related to the horse, used chiefly as a beast of burden.
any wild species of the genus Equus, as the onager.
a stupid, foolish, or stubborn person.
either of two perissodactyl mammals of the horse family (Equidae), Equus asinus (African wild ass) or E. hemionus (Asiatic wild ass). They are hardy and sure-footed, having longer ears than the horse related adjective asinine
(not in technical use) the domesticated variety of the African wild ass; donkey
a foolish or ridiculously pompous person
(Irish, informal) not within an ass’s roar of, not close to obtaining, winning, etc: she wasn’t within an ass’s roar of it
(mainly US & Canadian, slang) the buttocks
(mainly US & Canadian, slang) the anus
(mainly US & Canadian, offensive, slang) sexual intercourse or a woman considered sexually (esp in the phrase piece of ass)
(slang, mainly US & Canadian) cover one’s ass, to take such action as one considers necessary to avoid censure, ridicule, etc at a later time

beast of burden, Old English assa (Old Northumbrian assal, assald) “he-ass,” probably from Old Celtic *as(s)in “donkey,” which (with German esel, Gothic asilus, Lithuanian asilas, Old Church Slavonic osl) ultimately is from Latin asinus, which is probably of Middle Eastern origin (cf. Sumerian ansu).

For al schal deie and al schal passe, Als wel a Leoun as an asse. [John Gower, “Confessio Amantis,” 1393]

Since ancient Greek times, in fables and parables, the animal typified clumsiness and stupidity (hence asshead, late 15c., etc.). To make an ass of oneself is from 1580s. Asses’ Bridge (c.1780), from Latin Pons Asinorum, is fifth proposition of first book of Euclid’s “Elements.” In Middle English, someone uncomprehending or unappreciative would be lik an asse that listeth on a harpe. In 15c., an ass man was a donkey driver.

slang for “backside,” first attested 1860 in nautical slang, in popular use from 1930; chiefly U.S.; from dialectal variant pronunciation of arse (q.v.). The loss of -r- before -s- attested in several other words (e.g. burst/bust, curse/cuss, horse/hoss, barse/bass). Indirect evidence of the change from arse to ass can be traced to 1785 (in euphemistic avoidance of ass “donkey” by polite speakers) and perhaps to Shakespeare, if Nick Bottom transformed into a donkey in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (1594) is the word-play some think it is. Meaning “woman regarded as a sexual object” is from 1942. Colloquial (one’s) ass “one’s self, one’s person” attested by 1958.


The buttocks; posterior; butt: a kick in the ass
The anus; asshole: You can take it and shove it up your ass
A person regarded solely as a sex partner or target; tail: She looks like good ass
Sexual activity; sexual gratification: He was out looking for ass
The whole self; the person •Used for emphasis and euphony: Get your ass out of here pronto/ I’m out in Kansas for the first time, my ass drafted

Related Terms

one’s ass is dragging, someone’s ass is on the line, bag ass, barrel ass, bet your boots, burn someone’s ass, bust one’s ass, candy ass, candy-assed, cold as hell, cover one’s ass, deadass, drag ass, drag one’s tail, dumb-ass, fall on one’s ass, flat-ass, flat on one’s ass, get one’s ass in gear, get one’s head out of one’s ass, get off one’s ass, get the lead out, give someone a pain, go pound salt, gripe one’s ass, one has had it, haul ass, have a bug up one’s ass, have someone’s ass, have one’s ass in a sling, have one’s head pulled, have one’s head up one’s ass, have lead in one’s pants, one’s head is up one’s ass, horse’s ass, in a pig’s eye, jump through one’s ass, kick ass, a kick in the ass, kiss my ass, kiss someone’s ass, man with a paper ass, my ass, no skin off my ass, not have a hair on one’s ass, not know one’s ass from one’s elbow, on one’s ass, out on one’s ass, a pain in the ass, piece of ass, pissy, pull something out of one’s ass, put one’s ass on the line, raggedy-ass, a rat’s ass, ratty, shag ass, shit-ass, sit on one’s ass, sit there with one’s finger up one’s ass, smart-ass, soft-ass, stand around with one’s finger up one’s ass, stick it, suck ass, tear off a piece, throw someone out on someone’s ass, tired-ass, up the ass, up to one’s ass in something, what’s-his-name, wild-ass, work one’s ass off

frequently mentioned throughout Scripture. Of the domesticated species we read of, (1.) The she ass (Heb. ‘athon), so named from its slowness (Gen. 12:16; 45:23; Num. 22:23; 1 Sam. 9:3). (2.) The male ass (Heb. hamor), the common working ass of Western Asia, so called from its red colour. Issachar is compared to a strong ass (Gen. 49:14). It was forbidden to yoke together an ass and an ox in the plough (Deut. 22:10). (3.) The ass’s colt (Heb. ‘air), mentioned Judg. 10:4; 12:14. It is rendered “foal” in Gen. 32:15; 49:11. (Comp. Job 11:12; Isa. 30:6.) The ass is an unclean animal, because it does not chew the cud (Lev. 11:26. Comp. 2 Kings 6:25). Asses constituted a considerable portion of wealth in ancient times (Gen. 12:16; 30:43; 1 Chr. 27:30; Job 1:3; 42:12). They were noted for their spirit and their attachment to their master (Isa. 1:3). They are frequently spoken of as having been ridden upon, as by Abraham (Gen. 22:3), Balaam (Num. 22:21), the disobedient prophet (1 Kings 13:23), the family of Abdon the judge, seventy in number (Judg. 12:14), Zipporah (Ex. 4:20), the Shunammite (1 Sam. 25:30), etc. Zechariah (9:9) predicted our Lord’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, “riding upon an ass, and upon a colt,” etc. (Matt. 21:5, R.V.). Of wild asses two species are noticed, (1) that called in Hebrew _’arod_, mentioned Job 39:5 and Dan. 5:21, noted for its swiftness; and (2) that called _pe’re_, the wild ass of Asia (Job 39:6-8; 6:5; 11:12; Isa. 32:14; Jer. 2:24; 14:6, etc.). The wild ass was distinguished for its fleetness and its extreme shyness. In allusion to his mode of life, Ishmael is likened to a wild ass (Gen. 16:12. Here the word is simply rendered “wild” in the Authorized Version, but in the Revised Version, “wild-ass among men”).

In addition to the idiom beginning with
also see:

break one’s ass
chew out (one’s ass off)
cover one’s ass
drag one’s ass
kick ass
kick in the pants (ass)
kiss ass
make a fool (an ass) of
pain in the ass
stick it (up one’s ass)
you bet your ass


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