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 -ss) or e. hemionus (asiatic wild -ss). 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 -ss; donkey
a foolish or ridiculously pompous person
(irish, informal) not within an -ss’s roar of, not close to obtaining, winning, etc: she wasn’t within an -ss’s roar of it
(mainly us & canadian, slang) the b-ttocks
(mainly us & canadian, slang) the -n-s
(mainly us & canadian, offensive, slang) s-xual intercourse or a woman considered s-xually (esp in the phrase piece of -ss)
(slang, mainly us & canadian) cover one’s -ss, to take such action as one considers necessary to avoid censure, ridicule, etc at a later time

beast of burden, old english -ssa (old northumbrian -ssal, -ssald) “he–ss,” 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 p-sse, als wel a leoun as an -sse. [john gower, “confessio amantis,” 1393]

since ancient greek times, in fables and parables, the animal typified clumsiness and stupidity (hence -sshead, late 15c., etc.). to make an -ss of oneself is from 1580s. -sses’ 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 -sse that listeth on a harpe. in 15c., an -ss 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 pr-nunciation of -rs- (q.v.). the loss of -r- before -s- attested in several other words (e.g. burst/bust, curse/cuss, horse/hoss, b-rs-/b-ss). indirect evidence of the change from -rs- to -ss can be traced to 1785 (in euphemistic avoidance of -ss “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 s-xual object” is from 1942. colloquial (one’s) -ss “one’s self, one’s person” attested by 1958.


the b-ttocks; posterior; b-tt: a kick in the -ss
the -n-s; -sshole: you can take it and shove it up your -ss
a person regarded solely as a s-x partner or target; tail: she looks like good -ss
s-xual activity; s-xual gratification: he was out looking for -ss
the whole self; the person •used for emphasis and euphony: get your -ss out of here pr-nto/ i’m out in kansas for the first time, my -ss drafted

related terms

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

frequently mentioned throughout scripture. of the domesticated species we read of, (1.) the she -ss (heb. ‘athon), so named from its slowness (gen. 12:16; 45:23; num. 22:23; 1 sam. 9:3). (2.) the male -ss (heb. hamor), the common working -ss of western asia, so called from its red colour. issachar is compared to a strong -ss (gen. 49:14). it was forbidden to yoke together an -ss and an ox in the plough (deut. 22:10). (3.) the -ss’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 -ss is an unclean animal, because it does not chew the cud (lev. 11:26. comp. 2 kings 6:25). -sses const-tuted 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 -ss, and upon a colt,” etc. (matt. 21:5, r.v.). of wild -sses 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 -ss of asia (job 39:6-8; 6:5; 11:12; isa. 32:14; jer. 2:24; 14:6, etc.). the wild -ss was distinguished for its fleetness and its extreme shyness. in allusion to his mode of life, ishmael is likened to a wild -ss (gen. 16:12. here the word is simply rendered “wild” in the authorized version, but in the revised version, “wild–ss among men”).

in addition to the idiom beginning with
also see:

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

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