Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Is there any similarity between them that they have the same name, or is the reason something different of having a physical similarity?

I found different meanings for both, but none of them clarified the matter of naming them the same in vulgar English speaking.

share|improve this question
1  
This doesn't answer your question, but it's a good place to start the conversation. –  J.R. Apr 28 '13 at 12:15
1  
Actually it does answer the question by providing the etymology of both arse and ass and showing how arse dropped the r in the US. –  MετάEd Apr 28 '13 at 12:38
3  
"Butt" and "ass" only mean bottom in American English. They do not, in England and the rest of the UK which use the English words bum and arse. This question should be tagged as American English. –  Tristan Apr 28 '13 at 13:22
    
Even more confusingly for people who equate it with a mammal's rear end, "butt" can refer to pork shoulder meat or to the bumping action of an animal's head or horns. –  Sven Yargs Apr 29 '13 at 18:21
add comment

closed as general reference by MετάEd, Andrew Leach, Rory Alsop, FumbleFingers, kiamlaluno Apr 28 '13 at 21:57

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

2 Answers

up vote 17 down vote accepted

It's a historical accident—they’re really two different words.

In the sense buttocks, the word goes back to OE ærs, and beyond that to Proto Indo-European: there are cognates in Greek, Hittite and Old Irish. This is reflected in the ordinary British English arse—the {r} is dropped only in US English.

In the sense donkey, the word goes back to OE assa, derived (it is thought) via Celtic from Latin asinus (which may itself be of Middle Eastern origin).

See the Online Etymological Dictionary, s.v. arse and ass, and the Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. arse and ass.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Butt was originally (and in British English still is) arse. The donkey is ass. In American English these words merged into a single ass. The etymology has nothing to do with the similarity of the animal to a behind.

share|improve this answer
    
Armen, no. In England and the rest of the UK, the word is bum. See this dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/bum_1?q=bum Using "butt" with this meaning, sounds distinctly American, from an English and British perspective. –  Tristan Oct 26 '13 at 17:18
add comment

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.