monkey

1 of 2

noun

mon·​key ˈməŋ-kē How to pronounce monkey (audio)
plural monkeys
1
: a nonhuman primate mammal with the exception usually of the lemurs and tarsiers
especially : any of the smaller longer-tailed catarrhine or platyrrhine primates as contrasted with the apes
2
a
: a person resembling a monkey
b
: a ludicrous figure : dupe
3
: any of various machines, implements, or vessels
especially : the falling weight of a pile driver
4
: a desperate desire for or addiction to drugs
often used in the phrase monkey on one's back
broadly : a persistent or annoying encumbrance or problem

monkey

2 of 2

verb

monkeyed; monkeying

intransitive verb

1
: to act in a grotesque or mischievous manner
2
a
: fool, trifle
often used with around
he likes to monkey around with engines
b
: tamper
usually used with with
don't monkey with the settings

Example Sentences

Noun He's quite a cheeky little monkey, isn't he? I've got this monkey on my back, and going to detox is the only way to get it off.
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
The monkey later tested positive for amphetamines and caffeine, the court records state. Quinlan Bentley, The Enquirer, 15 Jan. 2023 At traffic lights, Presley would duck down, giving the appearance that the monkey was driving the car. Jordan Runtagh, Peoplemag, 13 Jan. 2023 Baboons, members of the old world monkey subfamily, use twigs as tools to pry insects or pebbles from the ground. National Geographic, 12 Jan. 2023 The effect lasted throughout the 10-month study—as well as over the two and a half years the company has followed the monkey since then, Kathiresan says. Emily Mullin, WIRED, 23 Dec. 2022 The 2019 surgery lasted 6½ hours, records show, and concluded when the monkey was euthanized. Jacob Bogage, Washington Post, 13 Dec. 2022 The 2019 surgery lasted 6 1/2 hours, records show, and concluded when the monkey was euthanized. Jacob Bogage, Anchorage Daily News, 13 Dec. 2022 Wilson also confirms that the monkey will finally speak in the third season. Nick Romano, EW.com, 5 Dec. 2022 The poor beleaguered horse would gallop and kick; the monkey would scream; the audience would roar. Stephen Greenblatt, The New York Review of Books, 1 Dec. 2022
Verb
The Bears will be prepared for the environment, but getting that Morgantown monkey off their back will take a lot more than imagined. Michael Haag, Dallas News, 10 Oct. 2022 With supply running low toward the end of most evenings, savvy bun fanatics don’t monkey around, routinely calling ahead to request an extra skillet of rolls set aside just for them. Ettan. Valerie Demicheva And Flora Chang, San Francisco Chronicle, 26 July 2021 But this experiment isn't about monkeying around—this a real security and safety hazard, the researchers point out in a new paper. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, 31 Jan. 2020 To make matters more confusing, Apple monkeyed around with the names of the new stuff. Geoffrey A. Fowler, The Denver Post, 15 Sep. 2019 To make matters more confusing, Apple monkeyed around with the names of the new stuff. Geoffrey A. Fowler, The Denver Post, 15 Sep. 2019 To make matters more confusing, Apple monkeyed around with the names of the new stuff. Geoffrey A. Fowler, The Denver Post, 15 Sep. 2019 To make matters more confusing, Apple monkeyed around with the names of the new stuff. Geoffrey A. Fowler, The Denver Post, 15 Sep. 2019 To make matters more confusing, Apple monkeyed around with the names of the new stuff. Geoffrey A. Fowler, The Denver Post, 15 Sep. 2019 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Noun

probably of Low German origin; akin to Moneke, name of an ape, probably of Romance origin; akin to Old Spanish mona monkey

First Known Use

Noun

circa 1530, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

circa 1658, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of monkey was circa 1530

Dictionary Entries Near monkey

Cite this Entry

“Monkey.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/monkey. Accessed 5 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

monkey

1 of 2 noun
mon·​key ˈməŋ-kē How to pronounce monkey (audio)
plural monkeys
1
: any of a group of primate animals other than human beings that are furry and live in warm regions
especially : ones that are small and long-tailed as compared to the apes
2
: a ridiculous person
: fool
monkeyish
-kē-ish
adjective

monkey

2 of 2 verb
monkeyed; monkeying
1
: to act in a playful or mischievous manner
2
: meddle, tamper
don't monkey with the lawn mower

Medical Definition

monkey

noun
mon·​key ˈməŋ-kē How to pronounce monkey (audio)
: a nonhuman primate mammal with the exception usually of the lemurs and tarsiers
especially : any of the smaller longer-tailed primates as contrasted with the apes

More from Merriam-Webster on monkey

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