[ muhng-kee ]
/ ˈmʌŋ ki /

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.

Idioms for monkey

    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


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

British Dictionary definitions for monkey on one's back

/ (ˈmʌŋkɪ) /



(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

Idioms and Phrases with monkey on one's back (1 of 2)

monkey on one's back


Drug addiction, as in He'd had a monkey on his back for at least two years. [Slang; first half of 1900s]


A vexing problem or burden, as in This project has proved to be a monkey on my back—there seems to be no end to it. Both usages allude to being unable to shake off the animal from one's back.

Idioms and Phrases with monkey on one's back (2 of 2)


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.