Arse vs. Ass – What’s the Difference?

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Oh, we’ve got a colorful one here today! Have you ever heard the terms ass and arse used in a sentence and wondered about the context? Don’t worry! You’re definitely not the only one to get confused because they both have a dual meaning, and which version you use depends on regional preferences. So, I’ll tell you exactly how to use each one.

Arse vs. Ass: What’s the Difference?

Arse vs. Ass Whats the Difference

So, simply put, the terms “ass” and “arse” are the same, and they both hold dual meanings. In all English-speaking countries, they’re terms we use to describe a person’s behind or buttocks. But in the UK, “ass” is also a common word for donkeys or mules, so they adapted the slang term “arse” when talking about someone’s butt.

Ass vs. Arse Ngram
Ass and arse usage trend.

Then there’s the second meaning. You can use “ass” and “arse” to describe a dumb person or someone behaving badly.

It reminds me of my nan, an old Newfie (Newfoundlander) who loved to use the term “arsehole” to berate anyone who did something stupid or ridiculous. Newfoundland has strong English, Irish and Scottish roots, so we share many of the same slang and curse words as the UK.

British English Ass vs. Arse Ngram
British English ass and arse usage trend.

Is Arse a Bad Word?

Yes, the term “arse” is usually considered informal and slightly vulgar, but mostly in British English. It can be seen as offensive in certain contexts or when you use it inappropriately. Some might tell you it’s best to avoid using the term, but I’ve only ever seen it used in a lighter tone, and it’s pretty hard to get mad at the sound of the silly term.

Arse Origin/Etymology

“Arse” has its origins in Old English, derived from the word “ærs” or “ars,” which both mean “buttocks” or the “hind part” of a person or animal.

In the early 1600s, it was used in the phrase “to hang the arse,” which means to be late for something. And later on, the term “arse-winning” was what you’d say about money earned from prostitution.

Arse Plural

If you’ve got more than one stupid person or several donkeys, the plural form of “arse” will be “arses.”

How to Pronounce Arse

You should pronounce the word “arse” to sound similar to “car” in terms of the R sound, then follow it with a soft S sound, arr-se.

Ass and Arse Examples in a Sentence

Arse vs. Ass Whats the Difference 1

To give you a better idea of the dual uses and meanings, here is a list of sentences showing how you can use both terms.

  • The stubborn ass refused to carry the heavy load up the hill, so I had to pull him by the reins.
  • I laughed and watched my sister fall on her ass while trying to ice skate for the first time.
  • The old farmer led his ass to the stable after a long day of chores.
  • Damon made a total ass of himself at the party by dancing on the table and drinking far too much.
  • I can’t believe I tripped and landed flat on my arse in front of everyone at school.
  • My brother was so lazy that he didn’t bother to move his arse off the couch all day, and now I’m stuck doing all the household chores.
  • The English comedian made a joke about kicking someone up the arse, and everyone burst out laughing.
  • Get off your arse and help me with the dishes!

Don’t Be an Arse!

While there might be a rather harsh use of these words, it’s usually meant in a lighthearted way. But you can also use them both to describe someone’s backside or a donkey. If you’re writing for an American audience, try to use “ass,” as that’s more common.

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