If you’re like most English learners, you’ve probably heard the word ASS used very frequently in English speaking songs, movies, and TV series.
In addition to its most common use (butt), you’ve probably even heard the curse word ASSHOLE, or seen people use LMAO (Laughing My ASS Off) in internet chat.
But did you know that ASS has a multitude of distinct uses that mean completely different things? Although you should definitely be very careful with all uses of this word, did you know that the use of this word is often not bad, but in fact it is often neutral or positive?
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If you’ve had contact with English speaking pop-culture, you know that native speakers use the word ASS in many informal and social situations. Let’s face it, as English speakers, a good part of our English practice and use may take place in informal situations.
While it’s important to emphasize that we need to be careful with this word, but this does not mean we should ignore it. If you close your mind to this important word and all of its meanings and never learn how native speakers use it, you will miss so much!
Here’s a little joke that exemplifies just 7 of the major uses of ASS. The footnotes correspond to the definitions provided.
Life is all about ASS. You are either covering your ASS17, laughing your ASS off9, kicking ASS4, kissing ASS2, busting ASS10, trying to get to get a piece of ASS8, or behaving like an ASS1…. or…. you live with an ASS1.
1. ASS (n) [Butt]
The most common and literal definition of ass is a donkey, and then the human butt/buttocks (1). It is used in a very literal sense (fall on your ass), and sexually (that guy/girl has a nice ass). It can also be a person who is being an inappropriate jerk (2). Neither of these are formal or polite, but their use is extremely common.
This definition of ASS is the root of many of the rest of these expressions, and although it is a moderately bad word, it’s everywhere in pop culture with varying degrees of appropriateness.
Example: (1) “He tried to kick the ball but missed and fell on his ass.” (2) “My friend drank too much and started acting like an ass (or making an ass out of himself)”
In Other Words: (1) Butt, Behind, Bottom, (2) Jerk, Jackass, Asshole
Appropriateness: (1) NOT offensive, (2) Disrespectful
2. ASShole (n) [Jerk]
The literal definition of asshole is anus (1), but it is most commonly used to call somebody a jerk (2) (a mean person). This is a bit disrespectful and a profane, but sometimes it is merited.
Asshole is more commonly used to describe men, while bitch is the female synonym of this (in most cases, bitch does not mean prostitute.) Read more about the word BITCH.
Example: (2) “The waiter was such an asshole that I decided not to leave a tip.”
In Other Words: (2) Jerk, douche (male), bitch (female)
Appropriateness: (1) dirty sexual word, (2) disrespectful
3. Kiss-ASS (n)/ ASS kisser (n) / Kiss ASS (adj)
To kiss somebody’s ass is a verb to describe someone who is complimenting/praising somebody in an exaggerated and undeserved way (1), while a kiss-ass or ass kisser is the person who does it (2). This is common in high school (but sometimes used in other contexts).
Example: (1) “The entire class thought that John only got a good grade in Math because he kissed the teacher’s ass all year.”
In Other Words: (especially in school): brown-noser (n) or teacher’s pet (n), suck-up (n), suck up to (vb)
Appropriateness: (1) offensive in a formal environment (not with your friends)
4. “Kiss my ASS!”
A disrespectful thing to say to someone you are angry at and don’t want to communicate with. This is different than kissing ass (#3).
Example: An aggressive driver who is angry at another car might yell kiss my ass out the window.
In Other Words: Fuck off (stronger), Screw you, Go to hell
Appropriateness: Very disrespectful, offensive and profane
5. JackASS (n)
Literally the cousin of a donkey (1), but it is commonly used to describe somebody who is a complete idiot or a fool with little common sense (2). There is a little bit of overlap with asshole too. There is a famous movie series with this name about a few guys who do stupid stuff and hurt themselves.
Example: “I hate it when a good party is ruined by somebody being a jackass.”
In Other Words: Idiot, Fool
Appropriateness: Disrespectful, but can be used amongst friends
*6. Kick ASS (vb) / KickASS (adj)
To kick somebody’s ass (vb) is to beat them at something by a lot or hurt them (1), while to kick ass just means to be awesome or successful (2) to describe someone or something as kickass (adj) is to say that it is awesome.
Example: (1) “I can kick your ass in bowling,” or “How dare you touch my girlfriend. I’m going to kick your ass” (2) “That was a kickass movie.”
Synonyms: Awesome, Cool, Impressive, Kick BUTT
Appropriateness: These are informal, but they are not offensive or profane.
*7. BadASS (n + adj)
Similar to kickass, badass is a noun and adjective used to describe something that is awesome (1), but the connotation here is a bit more heroic, admirable, and a bit of dark justice. The word badass is actually quite positive in a dark, macho way.
As a noun, a typical badass would be an action movie character like Vin Diesel in Fast and the Furious, Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator, or even Liam Neeson in Taken. A Common collocation for exactly this use is the acronym B.A.M.F. (Bad Ass Mother Fucker).
Example: (adj) “Neymar is a badass soccer player” or “He speaks 9 languages. What a badass!”
In Other Words: fearless, intrepid, bitchin’
Appropriateness: Informal, but not offensive or profane.
*8. Get some ASS (phrasal verb)/ a Piece of ASS (n)
Get some ass is to hook up or to have sex. It’s usually used by men (although not always), and is talked about as an achievement. It’s often shortened to “Get some.” Get a piece of ass is a bit more of an objectification of the person providing the sexual experience (again, commonly used by men).
Example: (vb) “The only reason a lot of people go out is to get some ass.”
In Other Words: to have sex, to get laid, to have sexual intercourse (literally).
Appropriateness: Informal and common amongst men and/or friends talking about sex.
*9. LMAO (Laughing my ASS Off)
The common textspeak (internet/digital acronym) term to describe laugher. Given the fact that the original term for it, LOL (laugh out loud), lost its power with time and overuse, LMAO and LMFAO (Laughing My Fucking Ass Off) became popular for sincere humor. [verb] + your ass off is a common generative formation that is used with other verbs too:
- Ex: “I worked my ass off last week to pay rent.”
- Ex: “I studied my ass off to pass the test.”
- Ex: “I laughed my ass off when he fell on his ass.”
In Other Words: LMAO– lol, laughing hard / [verb] + your ass off – a lot, very much
Appropriateness: The acronym LMAO is informal and non-offensive textspeak, while the construction “_________my ASS off” is informal and non-offensive amongst friends.
*10. Bust my ASS (vb) / Bust or Rip ASS (vb)
(1) to bust your ass is to work very hard (2) to bust or rip ass is to fart (to flatulate), but generally in a loud and probably embarrassing way.
Example: (1) “I busted my ass studying for that test.” (2) “he busted ass in front of the whole class.”
In Other Words: (1) work hard, work your ass off, Bust your BUTT, (2) fart, flatulate
Appropriateness: (1) informal and non-offensive/non-profane, (2) informal and distasteful/profane
11. DumbASS (n)
Somebody who is not intelligent or is acting like an idiot. The implication is foolishness, but depending on the tone and the context, it is often used interchangeably with jackass or ass. Its use is clearly disrespectful.
- You act like a dumbass/ are a dumbass
- That was a dumbass move to call the police officer a jerk.
Example: “He never pays his debts. Only a dumbass would loan him money.”
In Other Words: idiot, fool, jackass
Appropriateness: Informal and disrespectful.
12. LazyASS (n)
Somebody who is very lazy and never does anything productive. Like most other languages, the word lazy has no official noun attached to it, so the rich English language had to compensate.
Example: “He just stays home watching TV like a true lazyass.”
In Other Words: good-for-nothing, slacker, couch potato
Appropriateness: Informal and not necessarily offensive.
13. Drag ASS (vb)
To do something when you’re tired and without energy to do it. It is most commonly used in the present continuous as Dragging Ass. Think about somebody who is walking with their ass literally dragging on the ground.
Example: “I’ve been dragging ass all day because I didn’t sleep last night”
In Other Words: drag one’s feet, drag around, do something inefficiently
Appropriateness: Informal and not usually offensive.
14. Half-ASS (vb) + (adj)
To do something with less (or far less) than your best effort. You don’t care that much about quality or attention to detail, you do it mechanically, and the result reflects this poor performance.
Example: (adj) “Don’t do a half-ass job with your English.” (vb) “she half-assed the homework assignment and only got 65% on it.”
In Other Words: (adj) incompetent, inadequate (vb) do something without care or effort
Appropriateness: Informal and depending on the tone, it’s not inherently disrespectful.
15. “Your ASS is Grass (And I’m going to Mow it)”
A poetic, childish, and sometimes playful way to threaten somebody saying “I am going to get you.” Basically, you are going to be dead because your ass (you) is going to turn into grass when you are dead because I’m going to kill you (and then the “I’m going to mow the grass with a lawnmower). Kids used to say this all the time and you’ll probably see references to this in pop culture, like this one.
In Other Words: I’m going to get you/ I’m going to hurt you
Appropriateness: It can be threatening or playful, it’s a traditional slang expression for kids.
16. Put Your ASS On the Line
To risk yourself for another person or thing. Your ass is a way to say yourself.
Example from How I Met Your Mother (Marshall): “I put my ass and probably other parts of my body on the line to come here and party with my bro.” Learn English with How I Met Your Mother!
In Other Words: Risk everything, Put your BUTT on the line (less severe)
Appropriateness: Common in an important situation (informal), inoffensive
17. Cover Your ASS
To protect yourself or someone else or getting into trouble in a problematic situation (protect yourself from risk), usually within an organization or something related to the law.
- CYA = Cover Your Ass
- CYOA = Cover Your Own Ass
Example: The police officer didn’t want to fill out the report. He only did it to cover his ass so he wouldn’t get in trouble later.
In Other Words: Take precautions, to cover one thing over another to avoid blame/risk.
Appropriateness: A variety of situations, inoffensive.
18. HardASS (n)
A person who is strict and reinforces rules and regulations in an inflexible way.
Example: He lost his job because he had a bad habit of showing up a few minutes late every day and his boss was a hardass.
In Other Words: strict, stringent
Appropriateness: Okay amongst friends, moderately offensive.
19. Head up Your ASS
“To have your head up your ASS” is a very disrespectful way to say that somebody is oblivious to the situation. You can also tell somebody to stick (put) their head up somebody’s ass, which is basically like Fuck Off or Kiss My Ass. Here’s an example from the movie Scarface:
In Other Words: Oblivious
Appropriateness: Very disrespectful and offensive
20. Thumb up your ASS
To “have your thumb up your ASS” is a very disrespectful expression to describe someone who is sitting around doing nothing when they should be doing something.
Example: “Stop sitting around with your thumb up your ass and get to work.”
In Other Words: wasting time, dilly dallying
Appropriateness: Very disrespectful and offensive
21. “My ASS!”
What somebody says to something they disagree with or something difficult to believe.
Example: If somebody tells them that you owe them money but you don’t believe it, “My ass I owe you money. I already paid you.”
In Other Words: “What are you talking about?”, “That’s not true”
Appropriateness: Very disrespectful and offensive, although it is sometimes said jokingly
22. Open (up) a Can of Whoop Ass!
A very common line used in modern pop-culture to playfully describe that you’re going to beat somebody up (fight with them and win)
Example: “Don’t make me open up a can of whoop-ass on you.”
In Other Words: To hurt somebody
Appropriateness: Playful and usually used in jokes amongst friends
23. Looks/Tastes like ASS
A very vulgar way to say that something is very distasteful/not very attractive in looks or taste.
Example: “I don’t like eating at McDonalds because it tastes like ass.”
In Other Words: smells/tastes horrible
Appropriateness: Profane, distasteful, offensive
24. Take it up the ASS
This can mean literally to have somebody perform anal sex on you, or figuratively it means that you are getting a bad deal and somebody (probably an asshole-jerk) is probably taking advantage of you.
Example: “He switched phone companies because he was tired of taking it up the ass with unfair charges and phone calls he didn’t make.”
In Other Words: Get bent over, Get screwed, Get taken advantage of
Appropriateness: Profane, distasteful, offensive
25. Talk out of your ASS
To talk about something without really knowing what you’re talking about.
Example: “Everything he said was untrue. He was talking out of his ass.”
In Other Words: Talk nonsense
Appropriateness: Common amongst friends
26. “What’s up his ASS?”
A very vulgar way to ask “what’s wrong” with someone who is being a jerk.
Example: After somebody you know treats you disrespectfully, “What’s up his ass? He’s acting like a jerk today.”
In Other Words: What’s wrong with him? (People also say “What crawled up his/her ass and died).
Appropriateness: Profane, distasteful, vulgar
27. On your ASS/riding your ASS
When someone is giving you trouble and not giving you enough space. This can happen with your boss at work, who is on your ass for showing up late, or in the car on your highway with the car behind you who is on your ass driving very close to you.
Example: “She (the boss) has been riding my ass all week about this project.”
In Other Words: on my case, giving (you/me) a hard time
Appropriateness: Common amongst friends
28. Get Your ASS in Gear
A strong way to tell somebody to get going or to start to be productive on something.
Example: “He’s been really lazy lately. If he doesn’t get his ass in gear he’s going to lose his job.”
In Other Words: rapidly improve effort and performance
Appropriateness: Common amongst friends, depending on the tone it can be disrespectful if you say it to somebody in authority.
29. Get Your ASS out of here
A strong way to tell somebody to leave.
Example: “You better get your ass out of here or I’m calling the police,” or as a warning: “Get your ass out of here. The principal is coming.”
In Other Words: To leave promptly
Appropriateness: Profanity, it is generally disrespectful.
30. Your ASS is Mine
A very imposing way to say that you belong to me, or you are under my control, often implying that you will face consequences for something.This is also a way to tell someone that you caught them.
Example: As the guard gave the new prisoner a tour of the prison, he said “Outside you were free. Now your ass is mine.” Or, your strict teacher catches you cheating on another English test, saying, “your ass is mine, you’re expelled.”
In Other Words: You belong to me. I have control over your life and actions.
Appropriateness: Profanity, it is a threat.
31. Blow Smoke Up Your ASS
To knowingly deceive somebody with a story or information that’s not true, often jokingly.
Example: (After telling a long and elaborate story about something that happened) “No, none of that’s true. I’m just blowing smoke up your ass.”
In Other Words: I’m playing around with you/ joking, telling a fib/lie
Appropriateness: Moderately profane, often friendly.
32. I Don’t Give a Rat’s ASS
To not care about something at all, to express complete apathy over something
Example: I don’t give a rats ass what grade I get as long as I pass the class
In Other Words: I don’t give a care, I don’t give a damn, I couldn’t care less, I don’t care
Appropriateness: Profane, Strong
33. Pain in the ASS
Something or somebody that is extremely annoying, that causes trouble, that is a source of unhappiness
Example: I bought the pool thinking it was going to be fun, but then it became a pain in the ass when I realized I had to clean it.
In Other Words: A pain in the neck, annoying, troublesome
Appropriateness: Moderate to Strong profanity
Somebody who is sarcastic in an exaggerated and moderately challenging or rude way.
Example: A teacher asks his student where his homework is and the student responds in a moderately aggressive way, “My dog ate it.” The student would be a smartass.
In Other Words: Flip, facetious, smart-alecky, smarty pants
Appropriateness: Moderately inappropriate to disrespectful, depending on the situation. Fine amongst friends in a joking way.
ASS is Everywhere!
As you can see, there are LOTS of expressions with the word ASS, and they can mean good things or bad things and everything in between. While you don’t have to use them in your speech (and if you ever do you should be very careful), these words and sayings are a big part of English speaking pop-culture.
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