Can't Be Arsed: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
July 3, 2023

The idiom "can't be arsed" essentially means lacking the motivation or willingness to do something. The phrase is primarily used in British English to express indifference, disinterest, or a general lack of energy or enthusiasm toward a task or activity.

In short:

  • "Can't be arsed" reflects a state of unwillingness or lack of motivation to engage in a particular action or task.

What Does "Can't Be Arsed" Mean?

"Can't be arsed" is a common British English idiom that communicates a lack of desire, energy, or enthusiasm to do something. It often conveys a sense of disinterest, laziness, or even mild annoyance toward the action or activity in question.

Let's dive deeper into its core meanings and usage:

  • "Can't be arsed" signifies a lack of willingness or motivation to undertake a task or engage in an activity.
  • It's a straightforward way to express that you really don't want to do something.
  • While primarily used in informal and casual contexts, it's not uncommon to hear it in professional environments when colleagues are openly expressing their feelings about mundane tasks.

Where Does "Can't Be Arsed" Come From?

The phrase "can't be arsed" originates from British English, with "arsed" being a somewhat vulgar term for the buttocks. The phrase essentially means "can't be bothered." The idiom has become widely used in the UK and other countries that use British English, and it's become synonymous with expressing disinterest or apathy towards something.

Historical Example

"If they can't be arsed awaiting for me, I can't be arsed going after them. So I sat down and watched telly."

- "The Beatles" authorized biography by Hunter Davies

10 Examples of "Can't Be Arsed" in Sentences

Here are some examples of the idiom in use:

  • Despite the deadline, he just couldn't be arsed to finish the report.
  • She can't be arsed with that bougee lifestyle, preferring a simpler way of living.
  • I know I should clean my room, but I can't be arsed at the moment.
  • They can't be arsed to deal with Johnny Law, always finding a way to avoid confrontation.
  • They can't be arsed to study for the test, preferring to play video games instead.
  • He was proud as punch, but I couldn't be arsed to share in his excitement.
  • Whatever floats your boat, but I honestly can't be arsed to join in.
  • She can't be arsed to go shopping in this rainy weather.
  • Can't be arsed to partake in that tedious project, so goodbye until next time.
  • He said he can't be arsed to watch another episode and went to bed early.

Examples of "Can't Be Arsed" in Pop Culture

The phrase "can't be arsed" is frequently used in British pop culture, often to portray characters' lack of motivation or willingness to do something.

Let's explore some instances:

  • Yes, I’m A Counselor, But I Simply Can’t Be Arsed To Analyze What You Say!” is a 2019 book by Counsellors Rock Books. It is a humorous and sarcastic gift for counselors who need a break from their stressful and demanding job.
  • "I can't be arsed to get match tickets. I can't be arsed to sign autographs" is a quote from the 2019 book On The Seventh Day: Thirty Years of Great Sports Writing.
  • "Where in the civil service guidelines does it say it's absolutely fine to leave your minister alone with a hostile journalist if you just can't be arsed to walk down the stairs?" is a line from the comedy TV show The Thick of It (2005-2012).

Other/Different Ways to Say "Can't Be Arsed"

There are several other expressions that convey a similar meaning to "can't be arsed."

Here are some of them:

  • Can't be bothered
  • Don't have the energy
  • Not in the mood
  • Don't feel like it
  • Too lazy
  • Don't have the inclination
  • Not up to it
  • Don't have the will
  • Too tired
  • Can't find the motivation

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Can't Be Arsed":

  • What does "can't be arsed" mean?

"Can't be arsed" expresses a lack of motivation or willingness to do something. It often conveys a sense of disinterest or apathy towards the task or activity.

  • How can I use "can't be arsed" in a sentence?

You can use "can't be arsed" to communicate a lack of desire or willingness to do something. For instance, "I can't be arsed to go to the party tonight."

  • Where does the idiom "can't be arsed" come from?

The phrase "can't be arsed" originates from British English, where "arsed" is a term for the buttocks. Over time, it has come to signify a lack of interest or motivation.

  • Is "can't be arsed" considered informal?

Yes, "can't be arsed" is generally considered informal, and it is primarily used in casual conversation. However, it can also be used in less formal professional contexts.

  • Is "can't be arsed" an offensive phrase?

The phrase can be considered mildly offensive due to the vulgar origin of "arsed." However, its use is widely accepted in casual conversation in regions where British English is spoken.

  • Is the phrase "can't be arsed" used outside the UK?

While "can't be arsed" is most commonly used in regions where British English is spoken, its use has spread worldwide with the globalization of British media. Non-British speakers, however, might find it less familiar.

  • Can "can't be arsed" be used in a positive context?

Generally, "can't be arsed" is used to express a lack of desire or willingness, which is usually seen as negative. However, in some contexts, it could be seen as positively asserting one's boundaries or prioritizing self-care over unwelcome obligations.

  • What are some synonyms for "can't be arsed"?

Some synonyms for "can't be arsed" include "can't be bothered," "don't feel like it," and "not up to it."

  • Is "can't be arsed" used in written English?

"Can't be arsed" is more commonly used in spoken English, especially in informal settings. However, it can also appear in written English, particularly in informal texts or dialogue in literature and scripts.

  • Can "can't be arsed" refer to physical tiredness?

Yes, "can't be arsed" can refer to both physical tiredness and a lack of motivation or interest, depending on the context.

Final Thoughts About "Can't Be Arsed"

The phrase "can't be arsed" illustrates the common human experience of lacking motivation or willingness to engage in certain tasks or activities. Whether due to tiredness, disinterest, or apathy, it's a phrase many can relate to in those times when the effort seems too much.

Here's a quick recap:

  • "Can't be arsed" is an idiom expressing a lack of desire or willingness to do something.
  • It's primarily used in British English but is understood in many parts of the world due to the global influence of British media.
  • The phrase is informal and can be used in casual conversation or written dialogue, although it might be considered mildly offensive to some due to its origin.

The phrase serves as a reminder that it's entirely human to sometimes lack the motivation or energy for certain tasks and that expressing this feeling is okay when we experience it.

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