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n. pl. mon·keys
a. Any of various tailed primates of the suborder Anthropoidea, including the macaques, baboons, capuchins, and marmosets, and excluding the apes.
b. A nonhuman ape. Not in scientific use.
2. One who behaves in a way suggestive of a monkey, as a mischievous child or a mimic.
3. The iron block of a pile driver.
4. Slang A person who is mocked, duped, or made to appear a fool: They made a monkey out of him.
5. Offensive Slang Used as a disparaging term for a person with dark skin.
v. mon·keyed, mon·key·ing, mon·keys
v.intr. Informal
1. To play, fiddle, trifle, or tamper with something: Who was monkeying with my cell phone?
2. To behave in a mischievous or apish manner: Stop monkeying around!
To imitate or mimic; ape.
monkey on one's back
1. An addiction to a drug.
2. An object of persistent worry or obsession.

[Perhaps ultimately from Middle Low German Moneke, name of a young ape in the beast epic Reynke de Vos ("Reynard the Fox"), shortening of Simoneke, diminutive (used in punning reference to Latin sīmia, ape, monkey; see simian) of the Middle High German name Simon (equivalent to English Simeon Simon).]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


  • macaque - Based on Bantu kaku, "monkey," and ma, denoting a plural, translating to "some monkeys."
  • monkey business - A transfer of the tricks of monkeys to human behavior.
  • barrel of monkeys - Monkeys are usually a source of merriment, so if one had a barrelful of them, one supposes this to be quite hilarious; a group of monkeys is actually called a troop.
  • see monkeys - To be overcome by the heat while working.
Farlex Trivia Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
Her knowledge of monkeys was slight, but she fancied they looked with favour on bananas.
"I learned dot trick in Mogoung Tanjong when I was collecting liddle monkeys for some peoples in Berlin.
Whoever owned it could call three times upon the Winged Monkeys, who would obey any order they were given.
He asked me, "what my thoughts and speculations were, while I lay in the monkey's paw; how I liked the victuals he gave me; his manner of feeding; and whether the fresh air on the roof had sharpened my stomach." He desired to know, "what I would have done upon such an occasion in my own country." I told his majesty, "that in Europe we had no monkeys, except such as were brought for curiosity from other places, and so small, that I could deal with a dozen of them together, if they presumed to attack me.
We do not drink where the monkeys drink; we do not go where the monkeys go; we do not hunt where they hunt; we do not die where they die.
She had felt sure from the first that her son's pet monkey was no other than Prince Alphege, and she longed to put an end to him.
His eye was caught by a building of pale-blue tin, stencilled "Calvinist Chapel," before whose shuttered windows an Italian organ-grinder .with a petticoated monkey was playing "Dolly Grey-"
A MAN of humble birth and no breading, who held a high political office, was passing through a forest, when he met a Monkey.
Once when he was sitting on his garden wall, smoking a pipe in the evening, an Italian organ- grinder came round with a monkey on a string.
Then he stooped and gathered a handful of earth, and murmured some words over it, after which he threw the earth in my face, saying as he did so, "Quit the form of a man, and assume that of a monkey." This done, he vanished, and I was in the likeness of an ape, and in a country I had never seen before.
JUPITER held a baby show, open to all animals, and a Monkey entered her hideous cub for a prize, but Jupiter only laughed at her.
Sara she was called, a small, green monkey from South America, who seemed to have been born hysterical and indignant, and with no appreciation of humour.