What does the idiom "donkey's years" mean?

The phrase donkey's years is often used in English, but what does this idiom mean? When idioms are used in the right situations, they strengthen communication and enrich the language. You can communicate more effectively by learning the meaning of donkey's years.

Meaning of "donkey's years"


The idiom 'donkey's years' is used to indicate a lengthy period of time that feels like it has gone on forever. This idiom is often used to describe a situation where somebody has been dealing with something for too long and they are finally ready to move on.


The phrase 'donkey's years' is believed to have originated in the United Kingdom in the 19th century. It is believed that the phrase referred to a donkey’s life span of approximately 25 years, which was thought to be much longer than the human life span at the time. The phrase then began to be used as a metaphor for a long period of time.


The idiom 'donkey's years' is often used as a lighthearted way to express frustration, as it implies that someone has been dealing with a situation for longer than expected. It can also be used to describe something that seems to take a long time, like 'I've been waiting here for donkey's years!'. It is often used in informal settings, such as when talking to friends and family.

Example Sentences

  • I've been stuck in this job for donkey's years and I'm finally ready to move on.
  • I've been waiting for the bus for donkey's years, where is it?
  • It feels like I've been studying for donkey's years and I'm still not done!

The meanings of the words in the "donkey's years" idiom

The Surprising Origins of Everyday English Idioms

Many English idioms have surprisingly dark origins, often rooted in violence, death, and superstition. For instance, the phrase "raining cats and dogs" is said to have originated in the 17th century, when heavy rain would often cause dead animals to wash up on the streets. Meanwhile, the idiom "rule of thumb" is believed to have originated from a law that allowed men to beat their wives with a stick no thicker than their thumb.


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