That man is as tired as a [...] donkey.

I thought of the word overridden but I think it means something else.

  • 2
    There's the idiom dog-tired
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 14:13
  • 2
    ...as a donkey that has been ridden to the ground?
    – davecw
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 14:17
  • 3
    Use a hyphen. Over-ridden or ridden-out.
    – Kris
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 14:25
  • 3
    Has this donkey been ridden too much over his lifetime, or ridden too much today?
    – Gob Ties
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 17:36
  • 9
    Animal who has been ridden too much? Yo mamma!
    – IQAndreas
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 8:18

16 Answers 16


If you don't mind using a term usually confined to British English, try knackered. From TheFreeDictionaryOnline.com:

knackered adj
1. exhausted; tired out
2. worn out; no longer working, esp after long or hard use

  • 6
    The OP may be unaware that this expression does not fit in his sentence: "That man is as tired as a [knackered] donkey."
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 17:19
  • 5
    Yes, you can have a knackered donkey but to say "He is as tired as a knackered donkey", sounds unfamiliar. It's not a common collocation. I like knackered, it's a great word. But I'd use it differently.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 17:28
  • 9
    I second @Mari-LouA's comment. To me, "knackered" is a very close synonym for "tired," so pasting "knackered" into the OP's sentence would result in a sentence that basically reads, "That man is as tired as a [tired] donkey." Sure, it makes sense, but unless it's supposed to be part of a Blackadder script, it may not have quite the sound the OP is looking for...
    – Vectornaut
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 19:37
  • 3
    I always thought knackered was what happened to the old nags at the glue factory.
    – tchrist
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 3:57
  • 5
    @Robusto - No, but if I used the word bullshit to refer to cow manure you would see the confusion. That is the level of the link here. When you knacker a horse, you kill it. So saying a horse is knackered can either mean you killed it or it is tired. If a cow shit in your house you could say it's bullshit but it would be confusing. That is the nature of my objection. Etymology aside, knacker is still an in-use verb for killing an animal and the typical association is a horse.
    – Rudi
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 17:58

A common adjective would be worn-out. (as in worn-out donkey).

(Of a person or animal) extremely tired; exhausted:


Note: Worn-out horse is more common than worn-out donkey. Personally, I heard or read worn-out horse more than worn-out donkey also.

Below Ngram comparison ( between worn-out horse, worn-out donkey, worn-out mule) might give an idea also but it doesn't prove how widely accepted the terms are in general:

Google Books Ngram showing *worn-out horse* being more prevalent than *worn-out donkey* and *worn-out mule*


Under fire, he "hugged the ground more than once," fatigue knocked him out, and sometimes he collapsed like "a worn-out horse."

[Under the Bombs: The German Home Front, 1942-1945 By Earl Ray Beck (1986)]

As an additional information, it is more common to use "as tired as an <animal noun>" phrase without using an adjective before the animal noun. Though, it seems like this usage has fallen dramatically. Dog is still more common than donkey or horse.

Below NGram comparison might give an idea also: (Note: I searched as tired as a *, asterisk character is a wildcard. I tried searching tired as a * donkey or tired as a * horse but I didn't get any results.)

Google Books Ngram showing use of *as tired as a dog*, *as tired as a horse*, and similar phrases for other animals

As Mari-Lou A suggested in the comments, dog-tired is more common than any of these as an animal-related term to indicate exhaustion.


My favorite expression: "That man's been rode hard and put away wet."


Old worn-out nags used to be called jades. Jaded might be a good word, depending on your context.

  • 8
    This would have been the best answer 150 years ago. Webster's Dictionary of the American Language (1852) specifically identifies the transitive verb jade as meaning "To tire; to fatigue; to weary with hard service; as, to jade a horse" and the adjective jaded as meaning "Tired; wearied; fatigued; harassed." But more recently, jaded in the sense of cynical or world-weary has overwhelmed the word's earlier meaning and makes it less commonly understood in that sense. Still, +1 for bringing up this highly relevant term.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 17:51
  • Oops—my comment above should have referred to Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language (1852). I must be getting knackered (or jaded).
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 20:42

Another word for worn out is spent. The Free Dictionary includes multiple references to being exhausted, depleted of energy, tired, and worn out.


Tired as an overworked donkey

  1. To force to work too hard or too long.

You could use hackneyed, pronounced /ˈhæknɪd/. Here are two senses for it:

  1. Used so frequently and indiscriminately as to have lost its freshness and interest; made trite and commonplace; stale.
  2. Habituated by much practice, experienced; sometimes with the ulterior idea of disgust or weariness.

Hackneyed is especially appealing due to its obvious derivation from hackney, a word used since Chaucer and before for equines of a middling nature. It was later were used for equines available for hire, as in a hackney horse, hackney ass, hackney mule, all given by the OED. Using the word hackneyed lends connotative weight to the sense of something that’s now in a bad way as a result of having been used so much over its lifetime of service.

For alternatives, there is also the compound adjective time-worn, which means:

Worn by process of time; impaired by age.

For simpler terms, you could also turn to shabby, tired, worn-out, run-down, or broken-down. Those should work just fine as well. Maybe even disused (but see below for the noun desuetude).

For longer, more Latinate terms, decrepit might work too, but probably not dilapidated except in figurative use since it has no stones to lose. The uncommon noun desuetude in common use means:

The condition or state into which anything falls when one ceases to use or practise it; the state of disuse.

And has come to have a legal meaning as well. But if you write that your donkey has lapsed into desuetude, many readers will have to look the word up. :)

All definitions taken from the OED.


Spavined. Per free college dictionary:

Adj. 1. spavined - (of horses) afflicted with a swelling of the hock-joint unfit - not in good physical or mental condition; out of condition; "fat and very unfit"; "certified as unfit for army service"; "drunk and unfit for service" Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.

But when I've seen this word used in a literal sense, it's almost always applied to horses. You might see a reference to something else, like stairs, being spavined, but that's a metaphor drawing upon the veterinary term.

  • 1
    I wouldn't use this when talking about tiredness- I have only ever heard it used in a specific veterinary context and there it means unsound rather than exhausted.
    – glenatron
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 12:50

Another option that could work in place of over-ridden is "foundered".

From http://www.thefreedictionary.com/foundering:

foun·der 1 (foundr) v. foun·dered, foun·der·ing, foun·ders


  1. To sink below the surface of the water: The ship struck a reef and foundered.
  2. To cave in; sink: The platform swayed and then foundered.
  3. To fail utterly; collapse: a marriage that soon foundered.
  4. To stumble, especially to stumble and go lame. Used of horses.
  5. To become ill from overeating. Used of livestock.
  6. To be afflicted with laminitis. Used of horses.

v.tr. To cause to founder.

n. See laminitis.

[Middle English foundren, to sink to the ground, from Old French fondrer, from Vulgar Latin *funderre, from *fundus, *funder-, bottom, from Latin fundus, fund-.]

In this particular instance road founder would be the cause of an animal that was ridden too much and it applies specifically to horses/donkeys.


A donkey or horse that has been ridden out is hobbled.

hobble (definition from Merriam-Webster)

  1. to walk with difficulty because of injury or weakness
  2. to slow the movement, progress, or action of (someone or something)
  • I added in the definition from the dictionary for everyone's reference. Alas, I have too much reputation, so my edits are automatically approved, but if you disagree with the edit, feel free to roll back my changes.
    – IQAndreas
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 8:26
  • 3
    No, it isn't. A hobble is a specific piece of equipment for tying up either one or two legs of an animal to stop it wandering too far overnight when you don't have a fenced off area or stable. This gives us the human term "hobbling" meaning walking unevenly or with a stilted stride which relates to the restricted movement of a hobbled equine. It certainly wouldn't make sense in the phrase suggested in the original question.
    – glenatron
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 12:53

It's clear there's no cliche answer to this question, though I would support "worn-out" as the most apt and common description of a donkey that's been ridden too much. But if there's no cliche, and we are committed not just to common and correct usage, then why not go with something more interesting:


As in: "The man is as tired as a busted donkey."

Please don't respond by saying that "busted" only applies to machines, equipment, and other inorganic things.

  • Rather than simply telling people what to do, it would be better if you demonstrated why they shouldn't do it. Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 8:45
  • There is a bit of a complication with the word busted: It was (and may still be) sometimes used as a synonym for broken in referring to training a horse (or donkey) to accept a rider. That's why the term bronco buster describes someone who 'breaks" horses to the saddle.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Nov 2, 2014 at 1:22

How about dilapidated?

That man is as tired as a dilapidated donkey.

dilapidated (definition from Merriam-Webster)

  1. in very bad condition because of age or lack of care

In the synonyms there was also moth-eaten. 'That man is as tired as a moth-eaten donkey' sounds pretty sonorous to me, but it might not be the most common expression!


To me the best fit from existing language is hard-ridden or hard ridden.


I might go for swaybacked. Technically speaking, it just refers to having an abnormally hollow or sagging back, but it carries the connotation that the swayed back is due to overloading and overwork.


How about the phrase "About as worn out as a government mule" ?


Well-worn implies some physical deterioration. Haggard implies more severe deterioration. I don't think there are nouns that describe what you're thinking, only adjectives.

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