Coon’s Age—The Troubled History of an Idiom

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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.

Coon’s age means a very long time. It is an Americanism that isn’t used as much these days because of its association with the racist history of the single-word term coon.

Coon is supposed to be slang for raccoon, coined in the mid-1700s, but has been used as a racial slur in the past. The origin of the term coon’s age goes back to the early 1800s and, in fact, owes its meaning to the folk belief that raccoons are long-lived.

English language idioms like this one are important to language and communication, but you should be absolutely sure of their actual meaning before using them.

So, let’s break down this idiomatic expression with some details and examples so you understand the difference between slang for a long time and a racist slur so that you know how to use it properly in your writing.  

What Does the Idiom Coon’s Age Mean?    

The idiom coon’s age means a long time or a long while. It’s an Americanism first recorded around the mid-1800s, which was a variant of the expression a crow’s age. There’s no exact answer to how long is a coon’s age since it only means a very long time.

Coon is shortened term for raccoon. There’s an old folk belief that these adorable, chubby trash pandas are long-lived. (I hope so! They’re my favorite animal, next to the elusive penguin).

However, it’s important to clarify that the term coon has a troubling history as a racist slur for black people, stemming from the raccoon’s bandit-like appearance with its mask.

To be clear, coon’s age and coon should be treated as two separate terms. Coon’s age refers to the apparently long lifespan of the raccoon and, thus, means a long time.

Example: “I haven’t seen you in a coon’s age!” said Marty, my old friend from high school.

But the word coon by itself is tied to some derogatory history which is why both have been used less in recent years to avoid any association with the slur.

Insulting songs, films, and artworks were created, like the coon caricature. The coon was seen as inarticulate, lazy, and frightened compared to Sambo, the perpetual child.

Enslavers untruthfully described enslaved people as “slow” and “trifling.” Saying they wanted to do minimal labor while avoiding punishment despite working from dusk to dawn. Supporters of slavery also deemed black people as “unequipped for freedom” because of their “laziness.”

It’s because of this history that the word coon in itself has become less popular over the years. So, again, don’t get the two mixed up. The idiom coon’s age truly has no racial meaning; it just means a really, really long time.

Literal Meaning vs. Figurative Meaning

The literal meaning of coon’s age is just that—the age of a raccoon (or coon). But the figurative meaning, aka the idiom itself, suggests a lot of time has passed or will pass.

Variations of the Idiom

With English language idioms, we always get slight variations as the saying travels around the world and becomes shaped by regional spellings and cultural differences. Here are a few variations that you might come across, but they’re all acceptable versions.

  • A coon’s day
  • In a coon’s life
  • In a coon’s age
  • A coon’s life
  • Life of a coon
  • Racoon’s age

How Is Coon’s Age Commonly Used in Context?    

Proper usage of the idiom coon’s age is super important, but it’s the context that really matters. Here are some examples and tips on how to use the idiom.

What Are the Different Ways to Use the Idiom Coon’s Age?       

  • In everyday conversations: “You want to hike that mountain? I don’t know; I haven’t been hiking in a coon’s age.” This statement is very general and clearly states that you haven’t been hiking in a long time.
  • At work: “Adalynn! You’re taking a coon’s age to get that report done. What’s taking so long?” See how it can be used to express that something is taking too long?
  • Personally: Use it to express hope that something will take a long time. “Let’s pray that grandma lives longer than a coon’s age!”

What Are Some Tips for Using the Idiom Coon’s Age Effectively?

Make sure to never mix up the raccoon-related idiom with the racial slur. Because they both use the word coon, it’s easy to confuse others. Context matters!

Punctuate the word coon with an apostrophe and an S to show possession: coon’s not coons.

Where Can You Find Examples of the Idiom Coon’s Age?

I’m sure it’s a phrase that’s been said in many movies, TV shows, and books over the last few centuries. But, aside from books and films, the saying has been utilized by news outlets for years. Check out some of these examples.

You may meet friends you haven’t seen in a coon’s age. (Lake City News and Post)

To answer your question, I haven’t seen kids playing marbles in a coon’s age. (Houston Chronicle)

The chief reason Bryson William’s off night was not a problem was because Kevin McCullar and Terrence Shannon, simultaneously healthy for the first time in a coon’s age, more than picked up the slack. (247 Sports)

What Is the Origin of the Idiom Coon’s Age?

The idiom coon’s age originated in the year 1843 when it was up against a similar saying, crow’s age, as a way to imply a very long time. When people determined that raccoons probably live longer than crows, the idiom’s popularity grew.

How Did the Phrase Evolve Over Time?

Eventually, as modern society evolved, so did the idiom and its usage. This was due to the use of the word coon as a racial slur. People didn’t want to be associated with the negative implications.

What Are Some Related Terms to Coon’s Age?

Synonyms and antonyms help create a more well-rounded understanding of the words and phrases in our language. If a word is too difficult, common alternatives can sometimes paint a better picture. Antonyms help show us the opposite of the word.


  • A long time
  • Forever and a day
  • Ages
  • Eons
  • An eternity


  • New York minute
  • Two shakes
  • Really quickly
  • Snappy

Coon’s Age: Test Your Knowledge!

Choose the correct answer.

What Have We Learned about Coon’s Age?  

That really sums it all up. Coon’s age is not a racial slur, but the word coon itself has been used as one. So, when slipping this old idiom into conversation or in your writing, be sure it’s surrounded by the right context.

We covered the meaning, both literal and figurative, of the saying. We also broke down the origin and proper usage of the phrase with examples and tips. If you don’t feel like using the phrase, be sure to use the synonyms I gave you.

If you found this quick guide helpful at all, you should check out my other articles on popular idioms to freshen up your writing!