sim·​i·​an | \ ˈsi-mē-ən How to pronounce simian (audio) \

Definition of simian

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: of, relating to, or resembling monkeys or apes



Definition of simian (Entry 2 of 2)

: monkey, ape also : any of a suborder (Anthropoidea) of primates that includes monkeys, apes, and humans

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Did You Know?

The Latin word for "ape" is simia, which itself comes from simus, "snub-nosed". Simian is usually a scientific word; thus, for instance, biologists study simian viruses in the search for cures to AIDS and other diseases. But simian can be used by the rest of us to describe human behavior. Human babies often cling to their mothers in a simian way, and kids playing on a jungle gym may look like simians. But if you notice that a friend has a simian style of walking or eating bananas, it might be best not to tell him.

Examples of simian in a Sentence


a study of simian viruses

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Animals, especially simian ones, were historically racialized in popular culture to dehumanize black people. Nadra Nittle, Vox, "Prada pulled a collection of figurines that drew comparisons to anti-black caricatures," 14 Dec. 2018 Suotamo removes that old shuffle, and lends a loping simian gait and fresh physicality that adds more variety and expression. Christopher Borrelli,, "What lurks underneath 'Star Wars'' new Chewbacca? A 7-foot-3-inch former basketball player from Finland," 24 May 2018 Humanity has been decimated by a simian virus and may not survive. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, "‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ Review: Evolving Deep Feelings and High Drama," 13 July 2017 And one King Kong or another has met his demise simply because a woman—a winsome Fay Wray, a foxy-sweet Jessica Lange—has captured his simian heart. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, "The Shape of Water," 31 Aug. 2017 Still, even those giraffe characters don’t have species-specific traits—nothing like Babar’s regal bearing or George’s simian curiosity. Alex Shoumatoff, Smithsonian, "To Save Giraffes, We May Need to Put Our Necks Out," 29 Mar. 2017 For the effects company responsible for the simian half of the battle, Weta Digital, the stakes felt nearly as high. Tim Grierson, Popular Mechanics, "How 'War for the Planet of the Apes' Was Made," 13 July 2017 Picking up 15 years after the outbreak of the population-decimating simian flu, the film feels like a primate hybrid of The Searchers, The Great Escape, and Apocalypse Now (with lone human movie star, Woody Harrelson, in the gonzo Kurtz role). Chris Nashawaty,, "War for the Planet of the Apes," 14 July 2017 Still, even those giraffe characters don’t have species-specific traits—nothing like Babar’s regal bearing or George’s simian curiosity. Alex Shoumatoff, Smithsonian, "To Save Giraffes, We May Need to Put Our Necks Out," 2 May 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

These were the same preventative measures Philadelphia police took to keep wannabe simians from recklessly scaling anything and everything after the Eagles’ Super Bowl triumph. Nick Moyle, San Antonio Express-News, "Villanova romps to third title," 2 Apr. 2018 If that were true, every simian mugging at his own smartphone could call himself an artist. San Francisco Chronicle, "Last Word: Of monkeys and men," 27 Apr. 2018 Her cast, human and simian, is compelling, particularly her heroine, who rebounds from one cruel blow after another. The Economist, "Into the storm, with a band of bonobos," 19 Apr. 2018 Stereotypes about the Irish, often depicted as having simian features, were common at the time. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "My Epiphany About the Problem With Apu," 14 Apr. 2018 Political cartoonists gave Irishmen dark skin and simian features. Jason L. Riley, WSJ, "Lessons From the Rise of America’s Irish," 13 Mar. 2018 Primatologist Davis Okoye, played by Dwayne Johnson, has a pet ape, and being in keeping with a traditional monster film, his simian companion grows and grows and grows. Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, "The 2018 Sci-Fi Film Guide," 28 Dec. 2017 Its arms are too long, almost simian, its hands dangling far too low, one posed awkwardly over the crotch, as if to shield it. Alex Mar, WIRED, "Are We Ready for Intimacy With Androids?," 17 Oct. 2017 One of our editors likened the C-HR to a squatting simian, but others here at Car and Driver are enamored. Michael Simari, Car and Driver, "2018 Toyota C-HR," 22 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'simian.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of simian


1607, in the meaning defined above


1880, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for simian


Latin simia ape, from simus snub-nosed, from Greek simos

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Time Traveler for simian

The first known use of simian was in 1607

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English Language Learners Definition of simian

 (Entry 1 of 2)

technical : of or relating to monkeys or apes
literary : like a monkey or ape



English Language Learners Definition of simian (Entry 2 of 2)

technical : a monkey or ape

More from Merriam-Webster on simian

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with simian

Comments on simian

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


an act or instance of returning to life

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