Also found in: Dictionary.
Related to donkey's years: donkey work
A long time. I haven't been here in donkey's years—I can't believe how much the town has changed.
A long time, as in I haven't seen her in donkey's years. This expression punningly alludes to the considerable length of the animal's ears. [Early 1900s]
donkey's yearsBRITISH, INFORMAL
If something lasts or has been happening for donkey's years, it lasts or has been happening for a very long time. I've been a vegetarian for donkey's years. He owns some old iron mines that haven't been used in donkey's years. Note: This expression was originally `as long as donkey's ears', which are very long. The change to `donkey's years' may have come about partly because the expression is used to talk about time, and partly because the original form is difficult to say clearly.
ˈdonkey’s years(British English, informal) a very long time: She’s lived in that house for donkey’s years.This is a play on words between ‘years’ and ‘ears’, the joke being that donkeys have long ears.
n. a long time. (From British colloquial.) I haven’t seen you in donkey’s years.
A long time. The origin here is disputed. Some say it is a rhyming term for donkey’s ears, which are quite long, and possibly also a punning allusion to the Cockney pronunciation of “years” as “ears”; others believe it alludes to donkeys being quite long-lived. The expression dates only from the late nineteenth century. Edward Lucas used it in The Vermilion Box (1916): “Now for my first bath for what the men call ‘donkey’s years,’ meaning years and years.”