1. any of a group of anthropoid primates characterized by long arms, a broad chest, and the absence of a tail, comprising the family Pongidae (great ape), which includes the chimpanzee, gorilla, and orangutan, and the family Hylobatidae (lesser ape), which includes the gibbon and siamang.
  2. (loosely) any primate except humans.
  3. an imitator; mimic.
  4. Informal. a big, ugly, clumsy person.
verb (used with object), aped, ap·ing.
  1. to imitate; mimic: to ape another's style of writing.
  1. go ape, Slang. to become violently emotional: When she threatened to leave him, he went ape.
  2. go ape over, Slang. to be extremely enthusiastic about: They go ape over old rock music.

Origin of ape

before 900; Middle English; Old English apa; cognate with Old Saxon apo, Old Norse api, Old High German affo (German Affe)
Related formsape·like, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for apelike

Historical Examples of apelike

  • The apelike Pascual, his face a study in curiosity, drew alongside.

    The Wolf Cub

    Patrick Casey

  • Suspicion growing in his glance, the apelike one continued to eye him.

    The Wolf Cub

    Patrick Casey

  • He went expertly, swinging from car to car with apelike clumsiness—and surety.

  • Gazing into the darkness, she knew that her stare was apelike.

    Hilda Lessways

    Arnold Bennett

  • The big, apelike thug who was holding the shotgun had a chance to pull the trigger once more, but he wasn't aiming very well.

    That Sweet Little Old Lady

    Gordon Randall Garrett (AKA Mark Phillips)

British Dictionary definitions for apelike


  1. any of various primates, esp those of the family Pongidae, in which the tail is very short or absentSee anthropoid ape See also great ape
  2. (not in technical use) any monkey
  3. an imitator; mimic
  4. US informal a coarse, clumsy, or rude person
  1. (tr) to imitate
Derived Formsapelike, adjective

Word Origin for ape

Old English apa; related to Old Saxon ape, Old Norse api, Old High German affo
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for apelike



Old English apa "ape, monkey," from Proto-Germanic *apan (cf. Old Saxon apo, Old Norse api, Dutch aap, German affe), perhaps borrowed in Proto-Germanic from Celtic (cf. Old Irish apa) or Slavic (cf. Old Bohemian op, Slovak opitza), perhaps ultimately from a non-Indo-European language.

Apes were noted in medieval times for mimicry of human action, hence, perhaps, the other figurative use of the word, to mean "a fool." To go ape (in emphatic form, go apeshit) "go crazy" is 1955, U.S. slang. To lead apes in hell (1570s) was the fancied fate of one who died an old maid.



"to imitate," 1630s, but the notion is implied earlier, e.g. to play the ape (1570s), Middle English apeshipe "ape-like behavior, simulation" (mid-15c.); and the noun sense of "one who mimics" may date from early 13c. Related: Aped; aping.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper