What does the idiom "donkey work" mean?

donkey work is an idiom used by many writers. When idioms are used in the right place, they open the doors of effective communication and increase your descriptive power. In this way, you will be better understood. The meaning of the expression donkey work is also remarkable in this respect.

Meaning of "donkey work"


The phrase "donkey work" is an idiomatic expression used to refer to tedious, difficult and unpleasant tasks that must be performed, especially the kind of work that involves a lot of repetitive manual labor. It is often used as an expression of sympathy for someone who has been assigned to do an overwhelming or difficult task.


The term "donkey work" is thought to have originated in the United Kingdom in the early 19th century. It is believed to refer to the manual labor of the animal that was used for a variety of agricultural tasks, such as ploughing, threshing, carrying goods, and transporting people from place to place. The origin of the phrase likely comes from the fact that donkeys are often seen as stoic, hard-working animals that endure difficult tasks without complaint.


The phrase "donkey work" is used to refer to any type of laborious and tedious task. It is often used in a sarcastic or humorous way to refer to a job that requires a lot of hard work and effort, but produces minimal rewards. It is also used in a more sympathetic way, to express sympathy and understanding of the difficulties that someone is facing. It can be used to describe any kind of work, whether it is done by hand or with the help of technology.

Example Sentences

  • I know it's a lot of donkey work, but it has to be done.
  • John's been doing all the donkey work on the project, so he deserves a break.
  • I'm not one for doing donkey work, so I'll have to find a way to delegate it.

The meanings of the words in the "donkey work" idiom

The universal role of idioms

"Kill two birds with one stone" is an English idiom that means to accomplish two things with a single action. In French, the similar idiom is "Faire d'une pierre deux coups," which translates to "To kill two birds with one stone." This idiom highlights the efficiency of completing two tasks with one action.


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