Definition of monkey in English:


Line breaks: mon¦key
Pronunciation: /ˈmʌŋki

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, often 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.
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    • 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!
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    • Well, we've definitely heard of mischievous monkeys but Charlie is just cheeky, I think we can safely say.
    rascal, imp, wretch, mischief-maker, devil, rogue
    informal scamp, scallywag, horror, tyke, monster
    British informal perisher
    North American informal varmint, hellion
    informal , • dated rip
    British informal , • dated pickle
    archaic scapegrace, rapscallion
  • 1.3A person who is dominated or controlled by another (with reference to the monkey traditionally kept by an organ-grinder).
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    • 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.
  • 2British informal A sum of £500.
  • 3 (also monkey engine) A piledriving machine consisting of a heavy hammer or ram working vertically in a groove.

verb (monkeys, monkeying, monkeyed)

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  • 2 [with object] archaic Ape; mimic: then marched the Three who monkeyed our Great and Dead


as artful (or clever) as a wagonload (or cartload) of monkeys

British informal Extremely clever or mischievous: plot-wise, it was as mischievous as a wagonload of monkeys
More example sentences
  • He immediately named his replacement, describing him as: ‘Highly inventive, with a real love for film and as clever as a wagonload of monkeys’.

make a monkey of (or out of) someone

Humiliate someone by making them appear ridiculous: he thinks he can make a monkey out of me, but he’s got another think coming!
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  • 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 a fool, make someone look foolish, make a fool of, make a laughing stock of, ridicule, deride, make fun of, poke fun at; set someone up, play a trick on

a monkey on one's back

A burdensome problem: the issue of her absence from the tournament last year remains the monkey on her back
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  • 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: she returned to her family with the heroin monkey on her back
More example sentences
  • ‘Yup, it's an addiction, a monkey on my back,’ he said.

not give (or care) a monkey's

British informal Be completely indifferent or unconcerned: he doesn’t give a monkey’s what we think about him
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  • ‘Mrs B,’ as he is wont to describe his wife Katie, ‘doesn't give a monkey's what I say, at least not on matters political.’
  • He doesn't give a monkey's about being liked and is not averse to sledging markers to disrupt their concentration for advantage.
  • ‘I don't give a monkey's what people say,’ she says in her no-nonsense east London accent.



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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