bo·​no·​bo bə-ˈnō-bō How to pronounce bonobo (audio) ˈbä-nə-bō How to pronounce bonobo (audio)
plural bonobos
: a rare anthropoid ape (Pan paniscus) that has a more slender build and longer limbs than the related common chimpanzee (P. troglodytes) and that inhabits a small geographic region in equatorial Africa south of the Congo River

called also pygmy chimpanzee

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web In one of the clips, a bonobo gave its comrade a shove. Ingrid Wickelgren, Scientific American, 24 Jan. 2023 To him, chimp and bonobo vocalizations are like a code. Bridget Alex, Discover Magazine, 17 Nov. 2018 And yet, according to one of our studies, 75% of people have no idea what a bonobo is. Chris Mooney, Discover Magazine, 27 May 2010 One bonobo mom groomed her dead infant immediately before eating it with other members of the group. Bridget Alex, Discover Magazine, 28 Sep. 2018 And then there was Viktor, the young bonobo who couldn’t forget Shields, either. San Diego Union-Tribune, 18 Mar. 2022 As of January, Vernon was the oldest mammal at the Cincinnati Zoo and the oldest male bonobo known to be in human care. Emily Deletter, The Enquirer, 15 Dec. 2021 Officials announced Tuesday that Vernon, a 50-year-old bonobo and longtime resident of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, has died. Emily Deletter, The Enquirer, 15 Dec. 2021 For example, the zoo will be vaccinating a 5-year-old up to a 50 year old bonobo. Hannah Kirby, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 16 Nov. 2021 See More

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

Word History


origin unknown

First Known Use

1955, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of bonobo was in 1955

Dictionary Entries Near bonobo

Cite this Entry

“Bonobo.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Feb. 2023.

Medical Definition


: a rare anthropoid ape of the genus Pan (P. paniscus) that has a more slender build and longer limbs than the related common chimpanzee (P. troglodytes)

called also pygmy chimpanzee

More from Merriam-Webster on bonobo

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