Arse refers to the buttocks or in the case of arsehole
, the anus, in British English.
In most contexts it is the equivalent to Ass
in American English, but is not a direct replacement.
Arse is a four letter anglo saxon word. It is earthy, profound and very functional both as a term for parts of the body and as a term of abuse.
In Countries that speak British English it is considered a little less profound and offensive that 'certain other' well-known four letter words, but still wouldn't be used in polite company.
In American English speaking countries ‘arse’ is sometimes used as a more polite or less offensive version of ass.
In British English ass has been used until recently only to refer to a wild donkey.
Because a wild donkey is stupid and stubborn, ass is used in British English speaking countries as a term of abuse too, but the meaning is subtly different to arse.
Hence ‘stubborn ass’, as in ‘stubborn as a mule’. Similarly: stupid ass and silly ass,
"Don't be such an ass"! Is different in meaning to "Don't be such an arse"! In British English.
The sentence "I hate that arse, he is such a stubborn ass" makes sense in British English. It makes no sense in American English.
Sometimes people who speak British English use the word 'ass' to refer to the buttocks, too. This is a recent development either because they think it is cool to use America slang (too much television, maybe) or they do not wish to swear, in which case 'ass' is considered a soft alternative, considered suitable by some for children or old ladies.
Arse is more versatile than ass, being the root for such words as 'arsey', 'arseing' and 'arsed'.
Arsey: To be rude or unco-operative.
Arseing: As in 'Arseing around', to fool around or be silly.
Arsed: To take the trouble to do something, as in "I can't be arsed to do that"