When I think of dogs I have an image of them being fast animals, running and jumping, chasing a ball or another dog.

So, I am surprised that dog slow means very slow.

What is the etymology of this expression?

Usage in the wild (1 2):

Keep in mind that StackTrace is dog slow - so use it sparingly.

Why is android's String.format dog slow?

  • I just found this old forum thread with more speculation, someone claiming the expression was printed in PCWorld Magazine, and a person from Texas saying it "is not unusual in American English": forum.wordreference.com/threads/dog-slow.1922871 Someone says "dog" might be short for "doggone". Sep 1, 2017 at 6:42

2 Answers 2


The entry for "dog" in the Online Etymology Dictionary is interesting

In ancient times, "the dog" was the worst throw in dice (attested in Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit, where the word for "the lucky player" was literally "the dog-killer"), which plausibly explains the Greek word for "danger," kindynas, which appears to be "play the dog."

The Free Dictionary definition of dog includes a more general slang usage of "dog" that I'm familiar with:

Something of inferior or low quality: "The President had read the speech to some of his friends and they told him it was a dog" (John P. Roche).

Another example:

I bought a laptop from Cheep Computerz, but it was a real dog. I wouldn't buy anything from them again.

I would suggest that "dog slow" comes from the same usage. It's as slow as a really inferior thing.


In real life, dogs (especially wild mutts) are often scrappy and sickly. If you've ever noticed dogs in a third world country, you know exactly what I mean. In slang, a "dog" can be anything that is ugly or ragged or homely. For example, in the classic movie Marty, the lead character constantly refers to himself as a "dog," because he thinks of himself as unattractive. My guess would be that the origin comes from this meaning. A ragged, old dog of a car, for example, is not going to run well, and it's certainly not going to look or handle like a fancy sports car. You could refer to a car like this as "dog slow."

  • 2
    Yeah except answers here are not supposed to be guesses. Sep 1, 2017 at 3:39
  • I tried to find the etymology but there doesn't appear to be any ideas offered.
    – Ringo
    Sep 1, 2017 at 3:40
  • I'm not sure you're right about guessing.
    – Ringo
    Sep 1, 2017 at 3:43
  • I could only find this meta question: ell.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3230/… Sep 1, 2017 at 4:35
  • Well, the way I see it, I can answer however I please, and people can downvote if they like. I feel like, even if I'm wrong, at least I'm offering a reasonable idea worth pondering. A "dog" is such a familiar, common thing in human life -- it seems like it would be difficult to be able to pinpoint the etymology beyond all doubt. In the absence of an agreed-upon word origin, I believe a reasonable, thoughtful guess is better than nothing.
    – Ringo
    Sep 1, 2017 at 4:52

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .