Main definitions of ass in English

: ass1ass2



  • 1An animal of the horse family, which is typically smaller than a horse and has longer ears and a braying call.

    Genus Equus, family Equidae: E. africanus of Africa, which is the ancestor of the domestic ass or donkey, and E. hemionus of Asia

    • ‘In comparison with other Asiatic wild asses, E. onager is slightly smaller with a paler coat.’
    • ‘Such animals include horses, ponies, mules, asses and donkeys, elephants, camels, reindeer, buffaloes, oxen or bullocks, yaks and zebus.’
    • ‘Wild asses average 200 cm in body length, 45 cm in tail length, 125 cm at the shoulder, and weight 250 kg.’
    • ‘Drivers bawled for the right of way; asses brayed them down.’
    • ‘Here is a reference book for those who can't tell an ass from a burro.’
    • ‘Similarly, one ‘kind’ was likely ancestral to the various types of horses, zebras and asses.’
    • ‘Wild horses and asses were hunted for food and for sport before becoming domesticated.’
    • ‘He says quite calmly and simply, ‘It lets asses cross, it lets horses cross.’’
    • ‘Photographer Pete Oxford watches out for wolves, wild asses and dinosaur fossils in Mongolia.’
    • ‘Today only seven species of wild equids remain - three asses, three zebra and one wild horse - and IUCN-The World Conservation Union now lists most of these as endangered.’
    • ‘Domesticated donkeys can be bred at any time of year, wild asses generally breed in the wet season.’
    • ‘All domestic asses, or donkeys, are descendants of wild asses from Africa and Asia.’
    • ‘The species probably occupied rather dry, shrub-covered grasslands as suggested by the range of living wild asses and also by the frequency of rootlet impressions on the surfaces of many of the fossil bones.’
    • ‘This family, made up of the horses, asses and zebras, contains one genus with nine species.’
    • ‘In captivity, Asian wild asses have lived for 26 years.’
    • ‘Other desert animals, including wild sheep, Tibetan ass, and goitered gazelle, also stand to benefit.’
    • ‘The scientists have deduced that the ass is the only hoofed livestock species domesticated exclusively in Africa.’
    1. 1.1 (in general use) a donkey.
      • ‘We stepped off the trail to let her, her horse and the pack-laden ass that was bringing up the rear go by.’
      • ‘Livestock means cattle, horses, asses, mules, hinnies, sheep, pigs, goats, poultry, and deer not in the wild state.’
      • ‘Animals covered include horses, donkeys, asses, cattle, camels, pigs, goats, and sheep, with the most extensive tradition covering the larger species.’
      • ‘The evidence of their endeavours is still apparent, with most of the island made over to vast salt-pans and great gatherings of feral asses, descendants of those donkeys that pulled the salt carts.’
      • ‘Then be called ten times a donkey, and a mule, and an ass, and begone, or I'll clear the world of thee!’
      • ‘The milk of an ass, a mare, or a goat was put into a leather bag or skin and, tightly closed, this was then suspended beneath the belly of a horse.’
      • ‘But did Avraham sell Sara to an imperial Pharaoh in exchange for sheep, cattle, donkeys, servants, maids, asses, and camels?!’
      • ‘Therefore, it was necessary for God to show himself to them and gather them to himself, as he did when he commanded the ass and its colt to be untied and brought to him and took his seat on them according to the law of truth.’
      • ‘Well it looked like it was going to be a three-horse race, but in the end it was a contest between a horse, a mule and an ass.’
      • ‘Need I remind you gentlemen, that an ass is a donkey.’
      • ‘The asses and mules, their loads cast aside for the day, stood idle everywhere in the fields, munching at the parched grass and flinching from flies on a hot summer afternoon.’
      • ‘Of course, back then, travel was done on foot, or with an ass or a horse.’
  • 2British informal A foolish or stupid person.

    ‘that ass of a young man’
    • ‘It is so transparent to sophisticated eyes, and yet those asses in Rawson Square bought it hook, line and sinker.’
    • ‘In fact, I'll go further than that: the reason why it's legitimate to gull people like him into making silly asses of themselves on television is that, in a very important sense, they aren't real at all.’
    • ‘I can't get an intelligent word out of the silly ass and he's going berserk.’
    • ‘The silly ass asked the electors: ‘Who governs Britain?’’
    • ‘The fact might well be forgotten, but there are stupid asses who will not let us forget it.’
    • ‘Jockeys have been making the headlines for all the wrong reasons - too many silly asses have dropped their hands, and lost placings as a result.’
    • ‘The prospective bridegroom is a silly ass, the best man is a cad and the escort is a bore - so much for the men.’
    • ‘They are seen for the foolish bunch of asses that they are.’
    fool, nincompoop, clown, dolt, simpleton
    View synonyms


  • make an ass of oneself

    • informal Behave in a way that makes one look foolish or stupid.

      ‘I made an awful ass of myself’
      • ‘He took a stand and said the money wasn't worth making an ass of himself over.’
      • ‘I made an ass of myself at ye olde Hackney tavern on Friday night, drinking stupid amounts & flirting inappropriately with anyone who crossed my path.’
      • ‘For too long Clarke has been making an ass of himself through insensitive comments and immature behaviour.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, we should be grown up enough to forgive the fact that from time to time he may make an ass of himself.’
      • ‘It's being shown so that millions of viewers can laugh at this bossy boss making an ass of himself.’
      • ‘The party that claimed to stand for the bigger citizen and the smaller state made an ass of itself.’
      • ‘I'm pretty sure Jessica holds her liquor better than I hold mine, because I distinctly remember making an ass of myself twice in her presence, and her not even one time at all.’
      • ‘Somewhere behind it all, however, lies the splendid and irrepressible urge to get up in public and risk making an ass of yourself for the sake of art.’
      • ‘After all I'm probably just as likely to make an ass of myself in the virtual world as the real one.’
      • ‘We are not all mad violent alcoholics or binge drinkers whose only form of entertainment consists of trying to enter pubs in the hope of getting very drunk and making an ass of ourselves!’


Old English assa, from a Celtic word related to Welsh asyn, Breton azen, based on Latin asinus.




Main definitions of ass in English

: ass1ass2



North American
vulgar slang
  • 1A person's buttocks or anus.

    1. 1.1 Women regarded as a source of sexual gratification.
    2. 1.2one's ass Oneself (used in phrases for emphasis)
      ‘get your ass in here fast’
      ‘the bureaucrat who wants everything in writing so as to cover his ass’


  • bust one's ass

    • vulgar slang Try very hard to do something.

  • bust (or whip) someone's ass

    • vulgar slang Beat someone in a fight or contest.

  • chew (someone's) ass

    • vulgar slang Reprimand someone severely.

  • get your ass in (or into) gear

    • vulgar slang in imperativeHurry.

      ‘if you get your ass in gear, you can make it out of here tonight’
  • get off one's ass

    • vulgar slang Stop being lazy.

  • haul (or drag or tear) ass

    • vulgar slang Hurry or move fast.

      ‘I just turn around and haul ass right out of there’
  • my ass

    • vulgar slang Used to convey that one does not believe something that has just been said.

      ‘sold out, my ass!’
  • not give (or care) a rat's ass

    • vulgar slang Not care at all about something.

  • not know one's ass from a hole in the ground

    • vulgar slang Be totally ignorant or incompetent.

  • put (or have) someone's (or one's) ass in a sling

    • vulgar slang Get someone (or oneself) into trouble.

  • up your ass

    • vulgar slang Used to express contempt for someone or something.

  • you bet your ass

    • vulgar slang You can be very sure.

      with clause ‘you can bet your ass I'll go for it every time’


Mid 19th century: variant of arse.