mon·key / ˈməngkē/ • n. (pl. -eys) 1. a small to medium-sized primate that typically has a long tail, most kinds of which live in trees in tropical countries. The New World monkeys (families Cebidae and Callitrichidae, or Callithricidae) have prehensile tails; the Old World monkeys (family Cercopithecidae) do not. ∎ (in general use) any primate. ∎ a mischievous person, esp. a child: you little monkey! ∎ fig. a person who is dominated or controlled by another (with reference to the monkey traditionally kept by an organ grinder). 2. a pile-driving machine consisting of a heavy hammer or ram working vertically in a groove.• v. (-eys, -eyed) [intr.] (monkey around/about) behave in a silly or playful way. ∎ (monkey with) tamper with. ∎ [tr.] archaic ape; mimic.PHRASES: make a monkey of (or out of) someone humiliate someone by making them appear ridiculous.a monkey on one's back inf. a burdensome problem. ∎ a dependence on drugs.
The monkey is a member of the order Primates. Like humans, monkeys can see in depth and in color and can grasp objects with hands and feet. They usually eat leaves, insects, fruits, and bird eggs.
New World monkeys, found from Mexico to South America, are smaller and lighter than Old World monkeys and have flat noses. The family Cebidae generally has a rounded head and thirty-six teeth. The legs are longer than the arms, and the limbs end in five digits. The family Callitrichidae are the New World's smallest monkeys. They have small, round heads and thirty-two teeth. The tail is longer than the head and body together.
Most species of the marmoset and tamarin families are threatened with extinction, due mainly to loss of habitat. Especially threatened are the golden lion tamarins of Brazil (Leontopithecus rosalia), fewer than five hundred of which are estimated to live in the wild.
Baschieri Salvatori, Francesco. Rare Animals of the World. New York: Mallard Press, 1990.
Boitani, Luigi, and Stefania Bartoli. Simon and Schuster's Guide to Mammals, trans. Simon Pleasance, pp. 95-105. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983.
Patzelt, Erwin. Fauna del Ecuador. Quito: Banco Central del Ecuador, 1989.
Kay, Richard F., Blythe A. Williams, and Federico Anaya. "The Adaptations of Branisella boliviana, the Earliest South American Monkey." In Reconstructing Behavior in the Primate Fossil Record, ed. J. Michael Plavcan et al., pp. 339-370. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum 2002.
Recorded from the mid 16th century, the word is of unknown origin, perhaps from Low German; in the Middle Low German version of Reynard the Fox (1498), Moneke appears once as the name of the son of Martin the Ape.
as artful as a wagonload of monkeys extremely clever or mischievous.
monkey business mischievous or deceitful behaviour.
a monkey on one's back a burdensome problem.
Monkey Trial a trial of a teacher for teaching evolutionary theories, contrary to the laws of certain States of the US, specifically that of J. T. Scopes in Dayton, Tennessee (10–21 July, 1925), with William Jennings Bryan for the prosecution, and Clarence Darrow for the defence. Scopes was convicted, and fined $100 dollars.
three wise monkeys a conventional sculptured group of three monkeys; used allusively to refer to a person who chooses to ignore or keep silent about wrongdoing. One monkey is depicted with its paws over its mouth (taken as connoting ‘speak no evil’), one with its paws over its eyes (‘see no evil’), and one with its paws over its ears (‘hear no evil’).
See also cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.