jack·​a·​napes | \ ˈja-kə-ˌnāps How to pronounce jackanapes (audio) \

Definition of jackanapes

1a : an impudent or conceited fellow
b : a saucy or mischievous child
2 : monkey, ape

Did You Know?

William de la Pole, the Duke of Suffolk, was a well-regarded soldier and commander during the Hundred Years' War. It was during his dukedom (1448-1450), however, that England lost its possessions in northern France, and his popularity consequently suffered. The coat of arms for de la Pole's family sported an image of a collar and chain that, at the time, was commonly used for leashing pet monkeys, then known as "jackanapes" (a word whose precise origin is uncertain). By association, people gave the Duke the nickname "Jack Napis," and soon "jackanapes" took on a life of its own as a word for an impudent person and, later, a misbehaving child.

First Known Use of jackanapes

circa 1529, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for jackanapes

Middle English Jack Napis, nickname for William de la Pole †1450 duke of Suffolk

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about jackanapes

Time Traveler for jackanapes

Time Traveler

The first known use of jackanapes was circa 1529

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about jackanapes

Statistics for jackanapes

Cite this Entry

“Jackanapes.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/jackanapes. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on jackanapes

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for jackanapes

Comments on jackanapes

What made you want to look up jackanapes? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!