Definition of donkey in English:



  • 1A domesticated hoofed mammal of the horse family with long ears and a braying call, used as a beast of burden; an ass.

    • ‘Since donkeys were first domesticated about six thousand years ago, they have been very important in human economies.’
    • ‘With the thin flush of grass on the high slopes fast shriveling up, it is time for local people to cull old, unwanted horses and donkeys.’
    • ‘He said that horses and mules and donkeys were attracted to a nearby spring.’
    • ‘Only 37,000 wild horses and donkeys remain on public lands, primarily in Nevada, Oregon, and Wyoming.’
    • ‘Miniature donkeys are very popular as companion animals and for show.’
    • ‘Always make sure horses, ponies and donkeys are stabled while fireworks are being let off.’
    • ‘Highly intelligent - their fans would argue that they're smarter than horses - donkeys and mules are quick learners.’
    • ‘A man was riding a donkey, carrying a couple of baskets towards the jetty.’
    • ‘Horses and donkeys produce mules, for example.’
    • ‘Hybrids such as the mule, a cross between a donkey and a horse, are sterile.’
    • ‘Mules, typically the result of breeding a male donkey with a female horse, are usually sterile.’
    • ‘"She was involved in the donkey sanctuary and loved horses and all animals.’
    • ‘As well as farm livestock, there will be showing classes for horses, goats and donkeys.’
    • ‘They head out in the boat and Sancho starts crying after he hears his donkey braying plaintively.’
    • ‘It also gave shelter to abandoned horses, dogs, donkeys and birds.’
    • ‘The sanctuary looks after more than 100 horses, ponies and donkeys, plus sheep, pigs, and goats.’
    • ‘Because of them, hundreds of other horses, donkeys, and mules will be saved and will know love.’
    • ‘The strange script included drawings of camels, horses, donkeys and ibex.’
    • ‘A few moments later, he emerged, riding a fat old donkey.’
    • ‘Horses, ponies and donkeys are overcrowding animal sanctuaries after being abandoned by their owners.’
  • 2informal A stupid or inept person.

    • ‘We've called him and his ilk everything from thickheaded bozos, to donkeys and pious do-gooders.’
    • ‘I had seven names in all: imbecile, donkey, flax-head, dope, glump, ninny, and fool.’
    idiot, ass, halfwit, nincompoop, blockhead, buffoon, dunce, dolt, ignoramus, cretin, imbecile, dullard, moron, simpleton, clod
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  • 3informal An engine.

  • 4A low stool on which an artist sits astride, especially in an art school.

  • 5[mass noun] A children's card game involving exchanging cards.


  • donkey deep

    • informal Seriously or heavily involved, especially in something considered controversial or undesirable.

      ‘they are donkey deep in this whole sordid affair’
      • ‘Frank has sunk donkey deep into crime while trying to earn the capital to go straight.’
      • ‘It turns out that he was donkey deep in efforts to help this property developer well beyond supporting him for citizenship.’
      • ‘His boss is in donkey deep with Hollywood, so Joyce needs to be on side with them.’
      • ‘Any discussion of policies and issues gave way to the suspicion the Prime Minister was donkey deep in a conspiracy.’
      • ‘A senior political adviser working was donkey deep in the attempt to embarrass the then Labour leader.’
      • ‘The defence lawyer and her youthful smarty-pants cohorts might have been donkey deep in murder most foul, but they were not entirely guilty.’
  • donkey's years

    • informal A very long time.

      ‘we've been close friends for donkey's years’
      • ‘But residents are sticking by tradition, claiming housewives have been hanging out their washing across the back alley for donkey's years.’
      • ‘I have lived round here for donkey's years and this seemed to be the worst managed match.’
      • ‘It is the best lead toys collection we've seen in donkey's years and we are expecting that it will attract national collector interest.’
      • ‘I have been a member for donkey's years.’
      • ‘The feeling in the village is really angry, people are very upset because of the amount of people who have played down there, going back donkey's years.’
      • ‘I know one couple who have lived together for donkey's years, but she is buying the house and he pays his rent - in cash - every pay day.’
      • ‘Many groups have done it informally for donkey's years.’
      • ‘The " kits " for each experiment had been around for donkey's years.’
      • ‘Some people don't even have septic tanks - it's been that way for donkey's years - and will still pump raw sewage into the drains.’
      • ‘I felt as if I had known all the patrons for donkey's years.’
      a long time, an age, a time, a lifetime
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Late 18th century (originally pronounced to rhyme with monkey): perhaps from dun, or from the given name Duncan.