Asshole (or arsehole in British English) is slang for the anus and can be used to describe an unpleasant person. It is formed from arse, which according to the Oxford English Dictionary has been used since the 11th century to refer to the rump of an animal and since the 14th century to refer to a person's buttocks. The combined form arsehole is first attested from 1500 in its literal use to refer to the anus. The metaphorical use of the word to refer to the worst place in a region (e.g., "the arsehole of the world") is first attested in print in 1865; the use to refer to a contemptible person is first attested in 1933. Its first appearance as an insult term in a newspaper indexed by Google News is in 1965. But as with other vulgarities, these uses of the word may have been common in oral speech for some time before their first print appearances. By the 1970s, Hustler magazine featured people they didn't like as "Asshole of the month.


The word is mainly used as a profanity towards someone the speaker does not like or whose behavior is hurtful, self-centered, or particularly abrasive. Usually, the term is directed at a male (in female anatomy, the focus is deflected to the nearby genitals; see cunt). It may also sometimes be used to describe people who are viewed as stupid or useless or even meaningless, similar to wanker.

This word or its literal translation is found in colloquial speech in a number of cultures (in both English and other languages). This is because it describes an organ of elimination that is considered a taboo region (since it belongs to the intimate parts) of the body in many societies.

The English word ass (meaning donkey, a cognate of its zoological name Equus asinus) may also be used as a term of contempt, referring to a silly or stupid person. In North America, the words arse and ass have become synonymous; however, in the rest of the English-speaking world, ass still only refers to the donkey, rather than the arse (buttocks). It is worth noting that speakers of some varieties of English “drop their Rs” before consonants, leading to a pronunciation of arse that is quite similar to ass.

Until the early 1990s, the word was considered one of a number of words that could not be uttered on commercial television in the United States. Comedian Andrew Dice Clay caused a major shock when he uttered the word during a televised awards show in the 1980s. However, there were PG-13 and R rated films in the 1980s that featured use of the word, such as "The Terminator" (1984) and the PG-13 "National Lampoon Christmas Vacation" (1989) and "Back to The Future II" (1989). By 1994, however, the word was considered less vulgar and was featured in dialog on the long-running television series NYPD Blue, though it has yet to become anything close to commonplace on network TV. It is important to note that while the word arse has found a place on broadcast television, arsehole is not used, probably due to its more vulgar connotation. In some broadcast edits (such as the syndication airings of South Park), the word is partially bleeped out—ironically, as "arseh---", with the profane half of the word intact.

Political usage

In 2000, during a Labor Day event, then candidate George W. Bush made an off-hand remark to his running mate, Dick Cheney, that New York Times reporter Adam Clymer was a "major league asshole." The gaffe was caught on mic and led to a political ad chiding Bush for "using expletives... in front of a crowd of families," produced for Democratic opponent Al Gore.

In February 2004, American media reported that during a rally of supporters, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called Bush "an asshole" for believing his aides in supporting a coup against Chavez in 2002. . The following year, in September, Nightline host Ted Koppel said to Chavez on national television, "I'm going to perhaps shock you a little, but these are your words. You called President Bush an asshole," to which Chavez replied, "I've said various things about him. I don't know if I actually used that word.

Songs using the word asshole

In 1972, Jonathan Richman's Modern Lovers recorded his song "Pablo Picasso," which includes the immortal line "Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole." The song was not released until 1976, after the break-up of the original Modern Lovers. In 1976, Chinga Chavin released the single "Asshole from El Paso" from his album Country Porn. Chavin's song was a parody of Merle Haggard's "Okie from Muskogee." In 1993, actor Denis Leary enjoyed some success with a comedic song called "Asshole", which opened his stage play No Cure for Cancer and was featured in a music video. It topped the Triple J Hottest 100, 1993 in Australia and subsequently reached #2 on the charts in that country in 1994. Alternative rock artist Beck has written and recorded a song called "Asshole", one of his most acclaimed compositions. The British ska-punk band Snuff also have a song named "Arsehole", while Canadian comedy troupe Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie have had a song called "The Asshole Song" in their repertoire since the late 1980s. In 2004, the song "Asshole" by the band Jim's Big Ego was used as the soundtrack to a popular Internet filmstrip about the Bush administration. Gene Simmons of rock band Kiss released his solo album under the name Asshole which also featured a song of the same name. August Campbell & The Spur Of The Moment Band wrote "The Asshole Song", sung about a person who purportedly cut him off while driving his car, prominently features the word as well (i.e. "Were you born an asshole, or did you work at it your whole life?").

Similar compounds with ass

Asshat is a slightly trendier and less severe variation of asshole, graphically describing someone who has his “head up his own ass” (i.e., not knowing what’s going on): one is wearing one’s ass for a hat. A more modern usage of asshat describes a person doing something stupid, and can apply to anyone: “The boss is up to asshattery because he broke the computer even though he knew he was doing the wrong thing.” This meaning was popularized by Something Awful character Jeff K. The word is popular in many online communities, serving as a more palatable version of its antecedent. According to Google’s Usenet statistics, the word only saw a token appearance every day or two starting in July 1999, but following a slow rise in 2002, it entered popular usage in May 2003. As it continued to grow in popularity, asshat began to be used by online gamers, in first person shooter and massively multiplayer role playing games. It was a commonplace word on servers where vulgar language was not allowed.

The insult assclown is used in a similar fashion, although it is not as common. Assclown has become well known among fans of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) due to wrestler Chris Jericho using it during his promos, especially his “Highlight Reel”. The term was also used in the film Office Space to describe singer-songwriter Michael Bolton. “Assclown” is also used by radio personality Todd Schnitt.

Asstard is another rarer variant upon the ass- theme. It is possibly a portmanteau of asshole and retard and has almost the same meaning as asshole, but with a greater implied connotation of stupidity. An identically spelled version of the same word is a contraction of asshole and bastard, with a commensurately more abusive meaning.

asspit is a descriptive noun following this construction, used to describe places that are run-down or dirty, as in: “This house is an asspit.” It has a generally pejorative connotation.

ass-end or asshole can also be used to describe a location that is extremely remote, decrepit or seen to be without value - for example " (placename) is the asshole of the world"

See also


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