[ muhng-kee ]
See synonyms for monkey on
noun,plural mon·keys.
  1. any of more than 250 species of simian primates belonging to the two distinct lines of New World monkeys and Old World monkeys.

  2. the fur of certain species of such long-haired animals.

  1. a person whose behavior is likened to such an animal, as a mischievous, agile child or a mimic: My nephew is the most adorable little monkey—he'll try to climb anything he can reach.

  2. Disparaging and Offensive. (used as a slur against a member of a racial or ethnic minority group, especially a Black person.)

  3. a dance, deriving from the twist, in which the partners move their hands as if climbing a pole and jerk their heads back and forth.

  4. Slang. an addiction to narcotics.

  5. any of various mechanical devices, as the ram of a pile driver.

  6. Coal Mining. a small passageway or opening.

  7. British Slang. the sum of 500 pounds.

  8. Australian Informal. a sheep.

verb (used without object),mon·keyed, mon·key·ing.
  1. Informal. to play or trifle idly; fool (often followed by around or with).

verb (used with object),mon·keyed, mon·key·ing.
  1. to mock.

Idioms about monkey

  1. a monkey on one's back, Slang.

    • an addiction to a drug or drugs; narcotic dependency.

    • an enduring and often vexing habit or urge.

    • a burdensome problem, situation, or responsibility; personal affliction or hindrance.

  2. make a monkey out of, to cause to appear ridiculous; make a fool of.: Also make a monkey of.

Origin of monkey

First recorded in 1520–30; origin uncertain; possibly from Low German; compare Middle Low German Moneke (name of son of Martin the Ape in the story of Reynard the Fox), equivalent to mone- (akin to obsolete French monne “she-ape,” Spanish, Portuguese mono “ape”) + -ke diminutive suffix

usage note For monkey

Other words from monkey

  • mon·key·ish, adjective
  • mon·key·ish·ly, adverb
  • mon·key·ish·ness, noun

Words Nearby monkey Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use monkey in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for monkey


/ (ˈmʌŋkɪ) /

  1. any of numerous long-tailed primates excluding the prosimians (lemurs, tarsiers, etc): comprise the families Cercopithecidae (Old World monkeys), Cebidae (New World monkeys), and Callithricidae (marmosets): See Old World monkey, New World monkey Related adjective: simian

  2. any primate except man

  1. a naughty or mischievous person, esp a child

  2. the head of a pile-driver (monkey engine) or of some similar mechanical device

  3. (modifier) nautical denoting a small light structure or piece of equipment contrived to suit an immediate purpose: a monkey foresail; a monkey bridge

  4. US and Canadian slang an addict's dependence on a drug

  5. slang a butt of derision; someone made to look a fool (esp in the phrase make a monkey of)

  6. slang (esp in bookmaking) £500

  7. US and Canadian slang $500

  8. Australian slang, archaic a sheep

  9. give a monkey's British slang to care about or regard as important: who gives a monkey's what he thinks?

  10. have a monkey on one's back slang

    • to be troubled by a persistent problem

    • US and Canadian to be addicted to a drug

  1. (intr; usually foll by around, with, etc) to meddle, fool, or tinker

  2. (tr) rare to imitate; ape

Origin of monkey

C16: perhaps from Low German; compare Middle Low German Moneke name of the ape's son in the tale of Reynard the Fox

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with monkey


In addition to the idioms beginning with monkey

  • monkey business
  • monkey on one's back

also see:

  • fool (monkey) around
  • make a fool (monkey) of
  • more fun than a barrel of monkeys
  • throw a monkey wrench

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.