[ as ]
/ æs /
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a long-eared, slow, patient, sure-footed domesticated mammal, Equus asinus, related to the horse, used chiefly as a beast of burden.
Also called wild ass . an African wild ass, kiang, onager, or any of their subspecies.
a stupid, foolish, or stubborn person.
Were you ready for a quiz on this topic? Well, here it is! See how well you can differentiate between the uses of "was" vs. "were" in this quiz.
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“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.

Origin of ass

First recorded before 1000; Middle English asse, Old English assa, probably a pet name or diminutive form based on a Celtic form, e.g., Old Irish asan, Old Welsh asen, from Latin asinus; akin to Greek ónos “ass,” from a non-Indo-European language of Asia Minor, e.g., Sumerian anše “ass”


ass·like, adjective

Other definitions for ass (2 of 4)

[ as ]
/ æs /

noun Slang: Vulgar.
Also Chiefly British Slang: Vulgar, arse .

Origin of ass

First recorded in 1860–65; variant of arse, with loss of r before s, as in passel, cuss, etc.; see origin at arse

usage note for ass

See arse.

Other definitions for ass (3 of 4)


or -assed

a combining form of ass in the sense of “stupid person“ or “the buttocks,“ used in vulgar slang words as an intensifier or with disparaging intent: big-ass; stupid-ass.

Other definitions for ass (4 of 4)


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does -ass mean?

The combining form -ass is used like a suffix meaning “ass,” in the sense of “buttocks.” While occasionally -ass is meant literally or to mean “(stupid) person,” more often it is used as an intensifier. Intensifiers are words or word elements that essentially mean “very” or “somewhat.” The form -ass is often used in slang terms, especially vulgar or insulting ones.

The form -ass comes from Old English assa, meaning “ass,” in the sense of “donkey.”

Unlike some other combining forms, -ass is often separated with a hyphen, as in big-ass.

Examples of -ass

One example of a slang expression that features -ass is dumb-ass, “a thoroughly stupid person; blockhead.”

The word dumb- here means “stupid, dull-witted,” while the -ass portion of the word means “stupid person,” although it is also acting as something of an intensifier. Dumb-ass literally means “very stupid person.” Please note that the term is widely considered vulgar and offensive.

What are some words that use the combining form -ass?

What are some other forms that -ass may be commonly confused with?

How to use ass in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for ass (1 of 2)

/ (æs) /

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 horseRelated adjective: asinine
(not in technical use) the domesticated variety of the African wild ass; donkey
a foolish or ridiculously pompous person
not within an ass's roar of Irish informal not close to obtaining, winning, etcshe wasn't within an ass's roar of it

Word Origin for ass

Old English assa, probably from Old Irish asan, from Latin asinus; related to Greek onos ass

British Dictionary definitions for ass (2 of 2)

/ (æs) /

mainly US and Canadian slang the buttocks
mainly US and Canadian slang the anus
mainly US and Canadian offensive, slang sexual intercourse or a woman considered sexually (esp in the phrase piece of ass)
cover one's ass slang, mainly US and Canadian to take such action as one considers necessary to avoid censure, ridicule, etc at a later time

Word Origin for ass

Old English ærs; see arse
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Other Idioms and Phrases with ass


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.