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Monkey Idioms

Updated on July 14, 2019
Ben Reed profile image

Ben has held a life-long interest in language and has a special interest in the expressions, phrases and idioms that contribute to its use.

Monkey Idioms and Phrases

There are numerous idioms that make mention of the monkey and whilst some have negative undertones, many can be positive and complimentary.

  • A monkey on your back

A phrase used to describe a situation where you have a persistent problem, or burden to bear. An example would be: "Trust me, you don't want to get into debt. You could do without that Monkey on your back."

  • Monkey business

A way of saying that you should stop messing around. Be less silly, mischievous or deceitful.

To settle down and stop the monkey business. An example might be: "I told you that lawyer wasn't been straight with you. There is some monkey business going on here."

  • If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys

To way of saying that you only get what you pay for.

If you pay silly, low wages, then you are likely to only attract silly, or low skilled people.

So why the reference to Peanuts, I hear you say. Well, peanuts is a slang term for low wages. While monkeys is often used to refer to stupidity.

  • Grease monkey

A way of describing a mechanic who works on automobiles or aircraft.

An example might be: "I took my bike to see my usual grease monkey, he did a great job repairing it, as usual."

  • Brass monkey weather

A way of saying that it is extremely cold.

This idiom is thought to have its origins in the brass rack (called a monkey) that used to store cannonballs. If very cold weather, the cannonballs would contract in size and fall off the rack.

Brass monkey weather. Just makes you want to shiver!
Brass monkey weather. Just makes you want to shiver! | Source

Monkeys are superior to men in this: when a monkey looks into a mirror, he sees a monkey.

— Malcom De Chazal

More Monkey Phrases

  • Make a monkey out of someone

To make a person appear foolish, or silly. An example being: "I don't enjoy being made a monkey of in front of my friends. Save your jokes for for another time when we don't have company."

  • I'll be a monkeys uncle

A way of saying that something is very unlikely.

  • Funny as a barrel of monkeys

To be extremely funny.

  • Not give a monkeys

A way of saying that you do not care about something at all.

  • Monkey suit

A Tuxedo

Monkey in a suit - Idiom
Monkey in a suit - Idiom | Source

What Is an Idiom?

  • An idiom is a phrase or an expression that should not be taken literally. For when you use an idiom in everyday language, then it has a different meaning than the basic meaning or definition of the words as found in a dictionary.
  • They often use exaggerated language or claims to emphasize their point.

An example of this might be "Get your skates on." If taken literally, then you are being told to put on your skates. However, this phrase, or idiom is often used by someone who is telling you to hurry up.

Monkey Poll

Monkeys. What do you think about them?

See results

More Hyperbolic Meanings From These Monkeys

Idioms tend to be hyperbolic in nature in that they are prone to over exaggerate their point in order to support their case.

  • Monkeys allowance

A way of saying that a person is in a situation that earns more abuse than the rewards otherwise expected or hoped for.
To illustrate: "The firm may well of promised you a good bonus for that last job, but let's face it. The reality is that it was only ever going to be worth a monkeys allowance."

  • Left handed monkey wrench

Refers to a non-existent tool. Often used to tease someone who is new to a job or trade.
For instance: "I asked the new apprentice to get a left handed monkey wrench from the stores. When he brought it back, he still couldn't figure out why it looked identical to the right handed one I had. There's one born every minute..."

  • Monkey knows no ginger

To say that a person can't appreciate the significance or importance of something.

  • Monkey bite

Refers to a bite mark, blemish or mark left on the skin by a kiss.

Lets Stop Monkeying Around

  • Monkey see, Monkey do

An idiom that means: To imitate someone. Children often copy - imitate the behaviours of their parents.

  • To monkey with something

An idiom used to describe a person interfering or bothering with something or someone.

An example would be: "I told you not to do that! Stop monkeying around."

  • Softly, softly catchee monkey

A way of saying caution is the best way to achieve an end.

  • Cheeky monkey

A way of saying that someone is being playful or mischievous.

  • Powder monkey

The name given to an explosives expert. The source of this idiom is from a nautical term. It was the name given to the person who used to carry gun powder from the ships magazine to the gun deck.

Monkey Idioms From BBC Learning - YouTube

We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.

— Robert Wilensky, American Computer Scientist, 1951 - 2013

Idiomatic Expressions

  • Monkey tricks

Used to describe someone who is malicious or spiteful in their behaviour.

  • To get ones monkey up

A way to say that someone is being annoyed or irritated. An example would be "Every time I try to relax in the garden, my neighbour insists on lighting a bonfire. He really gets my monkey up."

  • As clever as a cartload of monkeys

To be sly, impish or mischievous.

Example: "We need to keep that group of youngsters separated. Once they are all together they are as clever as a cartload of monkeys."

Well I'll Be a Monkeys Uncle

  • Like a monkey on a stick

To be restless and agitated. Refers to a child's toy which was made up of a monkey figure
able to slide up and down a stick as though climbing.
Example: "I wish you would sit still. Your up and down like a monkey on a stick."

  • To have a monkey on one's back

A burdensome problem.
Example: "I told him not to over-extend himself by buying that big house. It will be forever like a monkey on his back."

  • Monkeys uncle

To express shock, surprise or incredulity
Example sentence: "Well, I'll be a monkeys uncle! I didn't expect to see you here."

  • To monkey around

To behave in a silly manner.

That's the problem with a monkey on your back! They are always there.
That's the problem with a monkey on your back! They are always there. | Source

Sometimes I Feel Like the Monkey in the Middle

  • Monkeys wedding

Used to describe a bright sunny day that encounters a shower of rain. This term originated in South Africa.
To illustrate: "It was a great day. Everyone had a wonderful time. The only downfall was that monkeys wedding of a shower that meant we had to retreat indoors for a few minutes."

  • Monkey in the middle

Originates from a game where two or more people keep a ball away from someone who is in the middle with the aim of catching the ball.
Example: "I'm trying as hard as I can to keep the peace between the the two of them, but honestly, they are such hard work. I feel like I'm just a monkey in the middle."

  • Monkey swill

A alcoholic beverage that is of poor quality or very unpleasant.

Monkeys in the Modern Era

  • Monkey script

A term used in computing. Describes a written procedure or script which a code writer follows.

  • Code monkey

A computer code writer who grinds out code, but who is unable or not required to work on higher status computing tasks. Usually said in a derogatory manner.

Enough of This Monkey Talk

  • Monkey house

Often use as satire in describing a place where politicians gather.

  • Organ grinders monkey

To be accused of doing the bidding for someone else.

  • Monkey talk

Distorted speech. Usually made with reference to a person under the influence of drugs.

  • Like butter on a bald monkey

To say something is very smooth indeed.


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    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @lidialbuquerque: Thank you - It is nice to know that you found this lens useful.

    • lidialbuquerque profile image


      5 years ago

      Very cool and informative! English is my second language and I learned some new idioms in here! Tks!

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @anonymous: Thank you.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Nice one I like the Monkey poster and the monkey jewelry too which is about halfway down the page as well. Emerald coloured eye Crouching Brass Tone Monkey lovely.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @sierradawn lm: Thank you.

    • sierradawn lm profile image

      sierradawn lm 

      5 years ago

      This was a delightful lens! I enjoyed my visit here!

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @WriterJanis2: Thank you

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      5 years ago

      So adorable.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      6 years ago from Redcar

      @anonymous: Thank you - very much appreciated.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I enjoyed this lens.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      6 years ago from Redcar

      @flinnie lm: Thank you.

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 

      6 years ago from Alabama USA

      Hi I enjoyed reading your lens.

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 

      6 years ago from Ljubljana

      Learning + fun = my kind of combination!

    • SavioC profile image


      6 years ago

      Boy O Boy. Did I enjoy your lens or what ? Really Amazing . And then there is the frog, pig, dog, horse be checked . Great lens. You can add " Steel Monkey" later on ........ Cheers .

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      6 years ago from Redcar

      @SavioC: Thank you.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      6 years ago from Redcar

      @Mommy-Bear: Thank you.

    • Mommy-Bear profile image


      6 years ago

      Cute lens, I'll take a look at some of your other ones.

    • takkhisa profile image


      6 years ago

      I like the way you have presented this lens with monkey pictures and really enjoyed looking at those idioms :)

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      6 years ago from Redcar

      @vinodkpillai lm: Thank you for the visit and comment - I always find that adding a bit of fun is a great way to make learning enjoyable.

    • vinodkpillai lm profile image

      vinodkpillai lm 

      6 years ago

      Fun way of learning idioms - thanks!

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      6 years ago from Redcar

      @momsfunny: Thank you - very much appreciated.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nicely done! :)

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      6 years ago from Redcar

      @alenmic: Thank you.

    • alenmic profile image


      6 years ago

      I always love idioms. Great lens.

    • takkhisa profile image


      6 years ago

      It is a nice and funny lens.

    • PennyHowe profile image


      7 years ago

      There's no monkey on your back! Loved your lens. Thanks for the great pictures and fun idioms.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      I love monkeys, and enjoyed the lens, so here are some Angel blessings

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      7 years ago from Redcar

      @Gloriousconfusion: Thank you for your visit and blessing of this lense. Always appreciated.

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 

      7 years ago

      Fun article! Enjoyed it thoroughly.

    • livinglargeandh profile image


      7 years ago

      Ha. This lens is right up my alley. We had several monkeys as kids. And...I have another idiom re monkeys for you--I remember it from Spanish class: "Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda." It translates loosely as: "A monkey in a silk suit is still a monkey."

    • angelsigh profile image


      7 years ago

      Cool lens :D

    • Sher Ritchie profile image

      Sher Ritchie 

      7 years ago

      This was fun! Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I kept thinking I had one but then I saw you had it here, always fun to take a walk through your animal idioms...just monkeying around!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Love your idiom lenses--they're great fun!

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 

      7 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      Very this lens.

    • garyrh1 profile image


      7 years ago

      Haha. Not give a monkey's. Hmmm... I haven't heard that one :)

    • shellys-space profile image

      Shelly Sellers 

      7 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      It has been awhile since I heard "Monkey see, Monkey do"! You have a fun sense of humor :)

    • CCGAL profile image


      8 years ago

      I did enjoy it indeed! In fact, I thought of a couple of monkey idioms that you don't have. "Throw a monkey wrench into your plans" is one, and "monkey rig" something is the other.

      On an aside, there was a popular song in the 60's that had the refrain: "Peel me a 'nanner, toss me a peanut, I'll come a swingin' from a coconut tree. Peel me a 'nanner, toss me a peanut, you sure made a monkey outta me."

      Nice job - I really liked this one, too!


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