Green’s Dictionary of Slang

arse n.

[note also US spelling ass n. (although this appears increasingly in UK in late 1990s+) is often interchangeable. In combs., both spellings have been included at the same headword, unless usage is nation-specific, where the relevant sp. has been used. The two spellings are synon. but it should be noted that Shakespeare opts for ass, often in a punning context, on several occasions. Arse was SE at coinage, but it moved gradually into sl. Its sources include a variety of words found in several Teutonic and Scandinavian languages. The nearest relation is the German arsch, and there are definite links back to the Greek orros and orsos. In English it dates at least to 1000, when it is spelt ars, ears or ars. The modern sp. appears c.1300. Once rendered taboo, arse was to be resisted in polite conversation and printed only after the exclusion of crucial consonants, typically by Grose, who prefers a–e to the full-blown word. It remained off-limits, at least in print, until 1930, when Frederic Manning used it in full in his memoir of World War I, Her Privates We (itself a slightly bawdy pun). Since then the word has become relatively acceptable, and such phrs. as arse about under arse v. or not know one’s arse/ass from one’s elbow , while not yet SE, are as much colloq. as sl. That said, arse/ass, remains one of those ‘filthy words’ cited in 1978 by the US Federal Communications Commission as indecent, if not actually obscene]

1. [late 14C+] the buttocks.

2. in a sexual context.

(a) [16C+] the vagina; occas. the penis.

(b) [1970s+] (orig. US/Aus.) sexual conquests; thus generic for a woman when viewed purely as a sex object; often as bit of arse.

3. [early 17C+] of an object, the rear.

4. [mid-18C+] used generically to mean one’s person, one’s body.

5. [late 19C; 1960s+] an unpleasant person, esp. a fool, an idiot.

6. [1930s+] (Aus.) a worthless, unpleasant place.

7. [1980s] (Aus.) something worthless.

8. [1940s+] (orig. Aus.) in fig. senses.

(a) brazen effrontery; see phrs. starting more arse... below [punning on SE cheek/cheek n.2 ].

(b) luck.

(c) courage.

9. [1950s+] (Aus., also big A) as the arse, dismissal, occas. general rejection; usu. in phr. get/give the arse v., to be dismissed, to dismiss.

10. [1940s+] (also as ass) a comparative intensifier, e.g. cold as arse.

11. [1960s+] (W.I.) an unspecified thing.

In derivatives

arseness (n.) [sfx -ness, state or condition]

[20C+] (W.I., Trin./Tob.) wilful stupidity.

arser (n.)

1. [1930s+] (orig. hunting/riding) a fall on one’s behind.

2. [1990s+] in fig. use of sense 1.

arsewise (adj.) [SE wise; used as a generic negative]

[1990s+] absurd, ludicrous, wrong, crooked.

arsewise (adv.) [SE wise; used as a generic negative]

[1990s+] back-to-front.

Pertaining to sycophancy

In compounds

arse crawl (v.) (also crawl up someone’s arse) [crawl v.1 (1)]

1. [late 19C+] to toady to, to act as a sycophant; thus arse-crawling adj.

2. [2000s] to harass.

arse-creeper (n.)

[1970s+] a sycophant.

Adjectival or adverbial uses

arse-firking (adj.)

sodomizing, thus homosexual.


[early 18C] short.


[1950s] in a suspicious or contemptuous manner.

arsepapered (adj.) [fig. ‘thrown away’]

[1980s] (Aus.) ignored.


[2000s] a general intensifier: extreme, very great.

General uses

arseache (n.) (also ass-ache)

1. [1950s+] (Aus./US) a general insult; thus arse-aching adj.

2. [1990s+] a bad temper.

arse-alight (n.) [SE alight, i.e. flames come out of its behind]

[1940s] a German WWII V-2 rocket.

arse bandit (n.)

see separate entry.

arse-bollocks (n.)

[1990s+] a term of abuse.

arse-cabbage (n.) [f. the site and the physical appearance]

[1990s+] haemorrhoids.

arse-case (n.)

[mid-17C] used as an image of a tight, narrowly cut garment.

arse-cooler (n.)

[mid–late 19C] a bustle on a woman’s dress.

arse-end (n.)

see separate entry.

arse-freak (n.) [-freak sfx]

a fan of hetero- or homosexual anal intercourse.

arsefucker (n.)

[2000s] (Aus.) a sodomite, a male homosexual.

arse-grapes (n.) (also bottom grapes)

[1990s+] haemorrhoids.


see separate entries.

arse jockey (n.) [SE jockey/jockey n.2 (3b)]

[1990s+] (UK juv.) a male homosexual.

arse-kicker (n.)

[1990s+] an aggressive, violent or overbearing person; thus arse-kicking n., aggressive behaviour, adj. arse-kicking, demanding, exhausting.


see separate entries.

arse music (n.)

1. [mid-19C] (UK Und.) the creaking of bedsprings that accompanies sexual intercourse.

2. [mid-19C] (UK Und.) the breaking of wind.

arsenuts (n.)

[1990s+] (UK juv.) faecal matter found clinging to the anal hairs and buttock cleft.

arse-opener (n.)

[late 19C+] the penis.

arse paper (n.) (also ass paper)

1. [1930s+] (N.Z./US) lavatory paper.

2. [2000s] (N.Z.) in fig. use, a despicable individual or object.

arsepiece (n.)

[1990s+] a general term of derision.

arse-pin (n.)

[mid-19C] the penis.

arse poker (n.) [play on SE poker = game/phallic implement]

[1980s] (UK gay) anal intercourse.

arse rugs (n.) [SE rug, a coarse material used as a cloak]

[1900s] trousers.

arse-shagger (n.) [shagger n.1 (1)]

[1990s+] a male homosexual; a sodomite.

arse-stabber (n.)

[1990s+] a sodomite.

arse-strings (n.)

[late 16C] a metaphorical part of the body, holding the buttocks in place.

arse-up (n.)

[1980s+] a failure, a loser.

arse wedge (n.)

[late 19C] the penis.


see separate entries.

arse-worm (n.)

[mid-17C–early 18C] a diminutive person.

Meaning back-to-front or head-over-heels

In phrases

arse about face (also ass about tit)

[late 19C+] back-to-front, in confusion.

arse over [presumably a euph. for arse over tit ]

[1950–60s] head-over-heels.

arse over apex (also base over apex)

[1920s+] head-over-heels.

arse over Charlie

[1950s+] head-over-heels.

arse over ears

1. [1980s+] completely.

2. lit. or fig. head-over-heels.

arse over head

[mid-18C+] head-over-heels.

arse over kick

[1920s+] (Irish) head-over-heels.

arse over kite (also a over k) [northern UK dial. kite, the stomach]

[1960s+] (N.Z.) head-over-heels.

arse/ass over teakettle (also arse over kettle, ass over teapot, tail over teakettle)

[1920s+] head-over-heels.

arse over tip [euph. for tit n.2 (1)]

[mid-19C+] head-over-heels; euph as heels over tip.

arse over tit (also a over t, arse/ass over elbow, ass over tits) [tit n.2 (1)]

[1910s+] head-over-heels.

arse over turkey

[late 19C–1920s] lit. or fig. head-over-heels.

arse up

1. [20C+] head-over-heels.

2. [1960s+] ruined, messed up; thus intensified as arse up with care.

arse upwards [getting up from a fall in this manner was believed to be lucky]

1. [17C+] lucky, fortunate; often as rise/raise arse upwards v., to be lucky; thus the punning Mr R. Suppards, a very lucky man.

2. [1990s+] easily.


[17C+] lit. or fig., upside-down, back-to-front.


more arse than a married cow (also more arse than a paddock-full of cows) [sense 7a above]

[1990s+] (Aus.) a phr. used of one who is very cheeky.

more arse than class [sense 7a above]

[1970s+] (Aus.) more luck or effrontery than style.

General adjectival or adverbial phrases

on the back of one’s arse

[late 19C+] (Aus.) penniless, impoverished.

on the bones of one’s arse (also on the bones of one’s backside) [i.e. one’s thinness through lack of food]

[1990s+] (Aus./N.Z.) very poor, impoverished.

to the arse/ass

to the greatest extent.

up one’s own arse [up prep., i.e. auto-sodomizing]

[2000s] self-important.

up someone’s arse/ass

1. [1970s+] (US) immediately behind someone or bothering them in an irritating manner.

2. [1970s+] (orig. US) in fig. use, irritating, bothering.

up to the arse/ass (also up to one’s arse/ass)

[20C+] (orig. US) completely overwhelmed by.

Implying stupidity

not know if one’s arse was on fire (v.)

[1940s+] (orig. N.Z.) to be very stupid.

not know one’s arse/ass from... (v.)

[mid-19C+] to be particularly stupid or ignorant, in var. combs. other than the main ones below; can be used with any n. that springs to mind, e.g. ...from a hot rock, ...from an adding machine, ...from an avalanche, ...from ice cream, ...from third base etc.

not know one’s arse/ass from a hole in the ground (v.)

[1930s+] to be particularly stupid.

not know one’s arse/ass from one’s elbow (v.) (also not know from one’s arse to one’s elbow, not know whether one is on one’s arse or one’s elbow)

[late 19C+] to be ignorant, to be stupid.

General phrases

arse-firking (adj.)

sodomising,thus homosexual.

arse of a... (n.)

constr. with a noun, a negative example.

be one’s arse (also be one’s ass) [i.e. one’s sense 1/ass n. (2) will get ‘kicked’]

[1940s+] (orig. US) a phr. meaning that one will be in trouble, that an action will lead to inevitable punishment, e.g. Do that and it’s your ass.

mine arse on a bandbox (also my arse on a bandbox, a bandbox) [SE bandbox, a light cardboard box used to contain millinery etc, which would not make a stable seat]

[18C–early 19C] a phr. used when something offered is inadequate for the purposes required, meaning ‘that won’t do’.

my arse is a red cabbage

[2000s] (N.Z.) a dismissive phr.

my arse is dragging

[1910s+] (orig. US) I am totally exhausted.

neither one’s arse nor one’s elbow

[1910s+] neither one thing nor another.

not a sixpence to scratch one’s arse with

[mid-19C+] absolutely impoverished.

see (someone’s) arse for dust

[1910s+] a phr. used to describe a speedy departure.

what the arse...? (also where the arse...? why the arse...?)

[1950s] (UK black) intensified form of what the hell...? phr. and vars.; also as an excl.

Verbs with one’s/someone’s

In phrases

bring one’s arse to an anchor

[late 18C–mid-19C] to sit down.

catch one’s arse

[1950s+] (W.I.) to find it hard to make enough money to live.

do one’s arse [sense 4 above]

[1980s+] (Aus.) to bet heavily and unsuccessfully; to lose all one’s money.

get one’s arse in one’s hand (v.)

[2010s] to get into an emotional state, to make a fuss.

give one’s arse a chance

[20C+] a comment aimed at a talkative person; usu. prefaced by Why don’t you shut up and...

give one’s arse a salad

[mid-17C-early 18C] to have sexual intercourse outdoors.

give someone the arse (also give something the arse) [? turning one’s back, and thus one’s buttocks, to someone]

[1950s+] (Aus.) to treat with contempt, to reject or dismiss; occas. of a thing.

hand someone (their) arse (v.)

[2010s] to treat with contempt, to reject or dismiss.

have one’s nose up someone’s arse

see under nose n.

kick someone’s arse (also kick the arse out of)

[mid-18C+] to thrash; to surpass, to defeat comprehensively.

kiss someone’s arse

see separate entry.

knock someone’s arse in

[1940s–70s] (N.Z.) to defeat in an argument or a fight.

lend one’s arse and shit through one’s ribs (v.)

[late 18C] used to describe a generous lender of money .

lose one’s arse

1. [17C] to lose a good deal of money, usu. through gambling.

2. [late 18C–mid-19C] to be careless; usu. in phr. they’d lose their arse if it were loose.

polish one’s arse on the top sheet

[late 19C] of a man, to have sexual intercourse (in the ‘missionary’ position).

put someone on the arse

[1970s] (Aus. Und.) to attack someone verbally.

shut one’s arse/ass (up)

[1940s+] to be quiet; esp. in imper. shut your arse!

tear one’s arse/ass

1. [20C+] to work furiously.

2. [1960s+] to run away.

General verbs

die in the arse

1. [1970s+] (Aus.) to be struck rigid, motionless, usu. through terror.

2. [1980s] (Aus.) of a vehicle, to break down.

hang an arse (also hang on arse)

1. [late 16C–early 18C] to hang back, to be afraid to go forwards.

2. [early 17C] to have large buttocks.

make an arse of

[1960s+] (Aus.) to make something or someone look ridiculous.

play the arse

[1960s+] (W.I.) to play the fool, to trick.

take it up the arse (also get it up the arse, take it, take it in the arse, the ass, take it up the arsehole, ...up the ass, ...up the bum)(orig. US)

1. [1940s+] to submit to anal intercourse, also used as an expression of contempt.

2. [1980s+] to be victimized, treated unfairly or harshly.

In exclamations

devil me arse!

[20C+] (Anglo-Irish) a general excl.

dry your arse!

[2000s] (Irish) stop whining! stop complaining!

in your arse!

1. [20C+] (W.I.) an excl. used to add emphasis to what has been said, synon. with ‘by God’, ‘for God’s sake’.

2. [1980s+] (Aus./US) an excl. of dismissal.

me arse and Katty Barry! [Katty Barry was the keeper of a shebeen, an illicit ale house, in Dublin in 1930s]

[2000s] (Irish) an excl. of disbelief.

my arse! (also mine arse! my ass!)

[late 17C+] a general excl. of disdain, dismissal, arrogant contempt, e.g. Are you frightened? Frightened, my arse!; latterly often implying disbelief of the previous statement; often modified with an adj., e.g. my hairy arse!

my arse to...! (also my arse for/on/upon...! my ass...!)

[late 17C+] a general excl. of contempt or dismissal.

no arse!

[20C+] (W.I.) a general intensifier, like hell!

shove it up your arse!

see separate entry.

your arse! (also your ass!)

[1920s+] a dismissive excl. meaning, ‘I don’t believe you’; often modified with an adj. e.g. your black arse!