What Does “Half-Assed” Really Mean?

You hear the phrase being tossed around all the time…..”don’t just half ass it,” “she did such a half-ass job on that project.” But what exactly is a half ass?

Is it literally half of an ass? What would “full-assing” a job actually entail? These are the thoughts that keep me tossing and turning with fits of insomnia night after night.

By using some questionably reliable sources on the Interweb, my suspicions are confirmed that half assing does, in fact, mean to do something to less than one’s full ability. In 2006, a stranger in a forum explained the origin of this baffling term to the world.

Believe it or not, the term originated from “half-adz,” which is mid-19th century slang. An adz is a tool with a curved, axe-type blade for shaping wood. If you were wealthy and wanted a new fireplace, the mantle could be shaped using an adz to finish the front and back. But obviously, the back of a mantle isn’t visible. To save money, you could have only the front of the mantle shaped, leaving the back as rough and unfinished wood.

Over time, this woodworking term has slowly evolved into today’s “half-assed.” Our friendly companions in the UK tend to prefer the term, “half-arsed,” based on the incorrect assumption that the US equivalent term refers to the posterior of the human body.

So alas, our mystery has been solved and one more research item has been checked off the list. And now that my worry has subsided, I’m going to take a nap.

1 thought on “What Does “Half-Assed” Really Mean?

  1. I always wondered this myself, but without the sleep deprivation. I was telling my boss I don’t like doing things half-ass, I like the whole ass!” Lol She fired me later that day!! No just kidding but i did tell her the whole ass thing. I haven’t gotten a reply back from her yet.
    Thanks for clearing that up. (Im a female by the way, i wouldn’t say that to my female boss if i was a dude don’t want another sexual harassment ordeal like my last job!) *That’s a joke btw*

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