jackanapes

noun
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 commander and statesman during the Hundred Years' War. It was during his dukedom (1448-1450), however, that England lost its possessions in northern France, and a portion of the blame was pinned on de la Pole. (So potent was the blame, in fact, that he was murdered in 1450.) The unfortunate duke lost his life and also gained a nickname: Jack Napis. The Jack part came from Jack as a term of address for one deemed socially inferior; the s on the end was a common nickname element; and the api was an allusion to something on de la Pole’s heraldic badge (a kind of personal emblem): the image of an ape’s clog—a weight that was used with a chain to restrain a monkey. Jack Napis eventually developed into jackanapes, a word that referred first to a monkey or ape less than a century after the duke had met his demise. The word’s other meanings quickly followed.

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

Last Updated

9 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Jackanapes.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/jackanapes. Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

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).

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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