Share this entry

ape Syllabification: ape

Definition of ape in English:


1A large primate that lacks a tail, including the gorilla, chimpanzees, orangutan, and gibbons. See also great ape, gibbon.
  • Families Pongidae and Hylobatidae
Example sentences
  • Mother apes - chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, humans - dote on their babies.
  • In fact, Huxley argued, a human differs much less from an ape, such as a chimpanzee or gorilla, than an ape does from a baboon.
  • Displays of deep caring and empathy across the generations are common in gorillas, and in the other African apes (chimpanzees and bonobos) as well.
1.1Used in names of macaque monkeys with short tails, e.g., Barbary ape.
Example sentences
  • There are UK warships at harbour here, and off duty squaddies roaring around the streets on mopeds, but what we really came to see is apes, Barbary Apes.
  • Barbary apes live in Morocco and north Algeria.
  • The Celebes Crested Macaque (Macaca nigra) is also known as the Crested Black Macaque, Sulawesi Crested Macaque, or the Black 'Ape'.
1.2(In general use) any monkey.
Example sentences
  • ‘There was talk of computer generated apes,’ he reports.
  • Generally all the apes are endangered and vulnerable.
  • You seem to be wary of anthropomorphising apes.
1.3An unintelligent or clumsy person.
Example sentences
  • The million or so who voted for the party last year aren't all knuckle-dragging racist apes.
  • If so why is she drooling over this ape of a man who is so Neanderthal, he can't string more than two words together.
  • Comparing primates to humans makes apes of us all.
1.4 archaic An inferior imitator or mimic: cunning is but the ape of wisdom
More example sentences
  • It is not God, but the Ape of God that speaks here.
  • If unskilfully and casually treated, it will be but the ape of nature.
  • Prejudice, according to such an account of it, is the ape of reason


[with object] Back to top  
Imitate the behavior or manner of (someone or something), especially in an absurd or unthinking way: new architecture can respect the old without aping its style
More example sentences
  • Startled women tend to mimic those around them, aping relatives or imitating things they see on TV.
  • But the Birmingham group is not just aping the capital; it has identified its own priorities, based on interviews with 3,000 people.
  • Becoming less self-obsessed, learning from failures and aping successful people's body language works as well in the boardroom as the singles bar.
imitate, mimic, copy, parrot, do an impression of, parody, mock
informal take off, send up


Old English apa, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch aap and German Affe.

  • Until monkey came into the language in the 16th century, the Old English word ape applied also to monkeys. The verb use ‘to imitate unthinkingly’ was formed when ‘ape’ still meant ‘monkey’, and was suggested by the way that monkeys sometimes mimic human actions. The expression go ape is often thought to be a reference to the 1933 film King Kong, in which a giant ape-like monster goes on the rampage through New York, but the phrase is not recorded until quite a bit later: US newspaper reports from 1954 and 1955 both say that ‘go ape’ is current teen slang. The cruder version go ape shit is recorded from 1951.


go ape

informal Express wild excitement or anger: your kids will go ape over these Popsicles! a washerwoman gone ape with a butcher knife
More example sentences
  • The slobs who frequent this place would go apeshit over a beauty like you.
  • I jiggle up and down as best I can, as the seething crowd below me goes apeshit.
  • The legal group and the protestors then burst into shouts and started going apeshit.



Pronunciation: /ˈāplīk/
Example sentences
  • We now know that Neanderthals were not ape-like.
  • The early humanoids traditionally characterised as ape-like brutes were deeply emotional beings with high-pitched voices.
  • It reminds of an incident when my normally ape-like father revealed a hitherto unforeseen wit while we were in America.

Words that rhyme with ape

agape, cape, chape, crape, crêpe, drape, escape, gape, grape, jape, misshape, nape, rape, scrape, shape, tape

Share this entry


What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

Word of the day fortissimo
Pronunciation: fôrˈtisəˌmō
(especially as a direction) very loud or loudly