ca·​pu·​chin ˈka-pyə-shən How to pronounce capuchin (audio)
especially for sense 3 also
kə-ˈpyü- How to pronounce capuchin (audio)
capitalized : a member of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin forming since 1529 an austere branch of the first order of St. Francis of Assisi engaged in missionary work and preaching
: a hooded cloak for women
: any of a genus (Cebus) of South and Central American monkeys
especially : one (C. capucinus) with the dark hair on its crown resembling a close-fitting cap

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Members of a genus of tropical monkeys (four species altogether) capuchins are found from Nicaragua to Paraguay. Considered among the most intelligent New World monkeys, capuchins are so-named because of their cap of crown hair, which resembles the cowl of Capuchin monks. These stocky, round-headed monkeys are 12-22 in. (30-55 cm) long, with a hairy, prehensile tail of about the same length. They are brown or black in color, sometimes with white markings. Capuchins live in troops, often in the treetops. They eat fruit and small animals and sometimes raid plantations for oranges and other food. They are easily trained and are valued as gentle pets.

Examples of capuchin in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Like miniature horses, capuchins can live for 30 to 40 years, offering potentially much longer relationships between a disabled person and their furry helper. Matt Benoit, Discover Magazine, 15 June 2023 Wild chimpanzees use insects to soothe their wounds and those of other chimpanzees, captive chimpanzees spit at handlers who withhold treats out of malice or indifference but not those who do so unwittingly, and captive capuchins choke under pressure. Matthew Gavin Frank, Harper's Magazine, 12 Apr. 2022 Hammonds booked travel for the capuchin with wildlife transporters who were not permitted to possess the capuchin species of monkey in neither Florida nor Nevada, where the buyer agreed to meet for the deal. Joe Mario Pedersen,, 4 Mar. 2022 While less dexterous than their capuchin counterparts, squirrel monkeys have limited thumb rotation, but can oppose their thumbs. Laura Baisas, Popular Science, 4 Apr. 2023 The increasing conservatism that comes with age is largely a consequence of raising children; small children, but not macaques and capuchins, can perceive faces in inanimate objects; and psychopathic traits, particularly meanness and disinhibition, protect against PTSD. Matthew Gavin Frank, Harper's Magazine, 21 Oct. 2022 Female Costa Rican capuchins with female friends were found to live longer. Matthew Gavin Frank, Harper's Magazine, 21 Nov. 2022 When this occurred, the capuchins and squirrel monkeys anticipated correctly, while the marmosets missed out on their reward. Laura Baisas, Popular Science, 4 Apr. 2023 Scientists have previously observed other primates, including capuchins and chimpanzees, using stone tools to crack nuts, extract shellfish and dig, according to the paper. Will Sullivan, Smithsonian Magazine, 13 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'capuchin.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle French, from Old Italian cappuccino, from cappuccio; from his cowl

First Known Use

1589, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of capuchin was in 1589

Dictionary Entries Near capuchin

Cite this Entry

“Capuchin.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


: a brown or black monkey of South and Central America with a whitish face, chest, and shoulders

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