noun, plural mon·keys.

verb (used without object), mon·keyed, mon·key·ing.

Informal. to play or trifle idly; fool (often followed by around or with).

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

to imitate; ape; mimic.
to mock.

Nearby words

  1. monk seal,
  2. monk's cloth,
  3. monk's pepper tree,
  4. monk, george,
  5. monkery,
  6. monkey bars,
  7. monkey block,
  8. monkey bread,
  9. monkey bridge,
  10. monkey business


    a monkey on one's back, Slang.
    1. an addiction to a drug or drugs; narcotic dependency.
    2. an enduring and often vexing habit or urge.
    3. a burdensome problem, situation, or responsibility; personal affliction or hindrance.
    make a monkey out of, to cause to appear ridiculous; make a fool of.Also make a monkey of.

Origin of monkey

1520–30; apparently < Low German; compare Middle Low German Moneke (name of son of Martin the Ape in the story of Reynard), equivalent to mone- (akin to obsolete French monne she-ape, Spanish, Portuguese mono ape) + -ke diminutive suffix

Related formsmon·key·ish, adjectivemon·key·ish·ly, adverbmon·key·ish·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for monkey

British Dictionary definitions for monkey



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
any primate except man
a naughty or mischievous person, esp a child
the head of a pile-driver (monkey engine) or of some similar mechanical device
(modifier) nautical denoting a small light structure or piece of equipment contrived to suit an immediate purposea monkey foresail; a monkey bridge
US and Canadian slang an addict's dependence on a drug
slang a butt of derision; someone made to look a fool (esp in the phrase make a monkey of)
slang (esp in bookmaking) £500
US and Canadian slang $500
Australian slang, archaic a sheep
give a monkey's British slang to care about or regard as importantwho gives a monkey's what he thinks?
have a monkey on one's back slang
  1. to be troubled by a persistent problem
  2. US and Canadianto be addicted to a drug


(intr; usually foll by around, with, etc) to meddle, fool, or tinker
(tr) rare to imitate; ape

Word Origin for 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

Word Origin and History for monkey
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

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.