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great ape

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noun
  1. any of several apes of the family Pongidae, characterized by a relatively hairless face with protrusive lips and by hands with complex fingerprints and flat nails, including the gorilla, chimpanzee, and orangutan.
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Origin of great ape

First recorded in 1945–50

ape

[eyp]
noun
  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.
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verb (used with object), aped, ap·ing.
  1. to imitate; mimic: to ape another's style of writing.
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Idioms
  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.
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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

British Dictionary definitions for great ape

ape

noun
  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
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verb
  1. (tr) to imitate
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Derived Formsapelike, adjective

Word Origin

Old English apa; related to Old Saxon ape, Old Norse api, Old High German affo

great ape

noun
  1. any of the larger anthropoid apes, such as the chimpanzee, orang-utan, or gorilla
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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 great ape

ape

n.

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.

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ape

v.

"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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

great ape in Science

great ape

[grāt]
  1. See anthropoid ape.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.