English Edit

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Etymology Edit

The origin is uncertain. Originally a slang term from the late eighteenth century. Perhaps from Middle English *donekie (a miniature dun horse), a double diminutive of Middle English don, dun, dunne (a name for a dun horse), equivalent to modern English dun (brownish grey colour) + -ock (diminutive suffix) + -ie (diminutive suffix). Compare Middle English donning (a dun horse), English dunnock. Became more common than the original term ass due to the latter's homophony and partial merger with arse (cf. rabbit).

Pronunciation Edit

Noun Edit


donkey (plural donkeys)

  1. A domestic animal, Equus asinus asinus, similar to a horse.
    • 1776 August 24, “[untitled]”, in Ipswich Journal[1], Ipswich, Suffolk, page 1:
      Lost last Saturday between twenty and thirty shillings they that have found it please to leave it heare there is five shillings reward by Wm. Roberts that goeth with a Donkey with many thanks
    • 1785, Anonymous [Francis Grose], A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue[2], London: S. Hooper:
      DONKEY, donkey dick, a he, or jack ass, called donkey, perhaps from the Spanish, or don like gravity of that animal, entitled also the king of Spain's trumpeter
    • 2013 November 17, Robert Frost, Delphi Collected Works of Robert Frost (Illustrated) (Delphi Poets Series)‎[3], Delphi Classics, →ISBN, →OCLC:
      I vow we must be near the place from where
      The two converging slides, the avalanches,
      On Marshall, look like donkey's ears.
      We may as well see that and save the day.”
      “Don't donkey's ears suggest we shake our own?
      'For God's sake, aren't you fond of viewing nature? []
  2. A stubborn person.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:stubborn person
  3. A fool.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:fool
  4. (nautical) A small auxiliary engine.
    Synonym: donkey engine
  5. (naval slang, dated) A box or chest, especially a toolbox.
  6. (poker slang) A bad poker player.
  7. British sea term for a sailor's storage chest.
    • 1903, W. H. Hood, The Blight of Insubordination[4], page 80:
      The chest may be found among those who stick to the sailing vessels, but for the steamer, the donkey died its natural death when the Suez Canal—responsible for many changes at sea—became an accomplished fact.

Hyponyms Edit

Derived terms Edit

Descendants Edit

  • Afrikaans: donkie
  • Northern Sotho: tonki
  • Tok Pisin: donki
  • Urdu: ڈَنْکی(ḍaṅkī)

Translations Edit

See also Edit

References Edit

  • (box or chest): 1930, Naval Review (London) (volume 18, page 592)

Further reading Edit