Definition of monkey in English:


Syllabification: mon·key
Pronunciation: /ˈməNGkē

noun (plural monkeys)

  • 1A small to medium-sized primate that typically has a long tail, most kinds of which live in trees in tropical countries.
    • Families Cebidae and Callitrichidae (or Callithricidae) ( New World monkeys, with prehensile tails), and Cercopithecidae ( Old World monkeys, without prehensile tails)
    More example sentences
    • It was a place where you can see wild monkeys living in the trees.
    • By contrast, many Old World monkeys, such as baboons and macaques, live longer, start to reproduce later, and have more time between babies.
    • If these differences had evolved in savannahs or forests, then they should be reflected in monkeys and apes that live in these habitats today.
  • 1.1(In general use) any primate.
    More example sentences
    • In general, monkeys are important figures in the mythologies of Asia.
    • The answer is that the only other animal that comes with a pair of hands is a monkey, and monkeys aren't generally very efficient.
    • This may reflect differences in forest ecology or between monkeys, but it does suggest caution about generalising from over simple models.
  • 1.2A mischievous person, especially a child: where have you been, you little monkey!
    More example sentences
    • Well, we've definitely heard of mischievous monkeys but Charlie is just cheeky, I think we can safely say.
  • 1.3A person who is dominated or controlled by another (with reference to the monkey traditionally kept by an organ grinder).
    More example sentences
    • That said, head office still seems to be populated by an unmanageable number of monkeys.
    • I have read of accounts in the media of people being mistreated as a public servant, monkeys on computers, people leaving due to stress and mistreatment.
    • The lesson was that if you present your party as the prospective junior government partner, voters will opt for the organ grinder rather than the monkey.
  • 2A pile-driving machine consisting of a heavy hammer or ram working vertically in a groove.

verb (monkeys, monkeying, monkeyed)

[no object] (monkey around/about) Back to top  
  • 1Behave in a silly or playful way.
    More example sentences
    • My brother and I were monkeying around and he was pretending to try to throw me to the ground.
    • So don't monkey around - break out the pen and paper, and write away!
    • This is just the place for those who like to monkey around.
  • 1.1 (monkey with) Tamper with: don’t monkey with that lock!
    More example sentences
    • Simon can't resist monkeying with some of the arrangements either.
    • The CIA, Graham said, were monkeying with democracy.
    • I figure a superhuman spirit is capable of monkeying with natural phenomena at times.
    tamper with, fiddle with, interfere with, meddle with, tinker with, play with
    informal mess with
  • 1.2 [with object] archaic Ape; mimic.


make a monkey of (or out of) someone

Humiliate someone by making them appear ridiculous.
More example sentences
  • Desmond said, ‘You'll never make a monkey out of me!’
  • The meteorologists make a monkey of me once again.
  • They've finally made a monkey out of me at this website.
make someone look foolish, make a fool of, make a laughingstock of, ridicule, make fun of, poke fun at

a monkey on one's back

informal A burdensome problem.
More example sentences
  • The North, understandably still stuck in an anti-British mode, couldn't bring itself to throw this particular monkey off its back.
  • It was like having a monkey on your back that you just can't get rid of.
  • Is retro therefore almost a monkey on your back when trying to get your new product off the ground?
A dependence on drugs.
More example sentences
  • ‘Yup, it's an addiction, a monkey on my back,’ he said.



More example sentences
  • That's the group of people who each of us, using our monkeyish brains, are able to conceptualize as people.
  • ‘That is why I need to act,’ explained Barcél, with a crude sweep of his monkeyish hands.


mid 16th century: of unknown origin, perhaps from Low German.

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