16 Common Monkey Idioms (Definitions + Examples)

I put together a list of some common idioms with monkey so you can learn them quickly and use them in your own conversations. Learn definitions and some useful compound nouns with the word MONKEY. 

Monkey Bars
Monkey Nut
Grease Monkey
Monkey Wrench
Monkey Business
Monkey In The Middle
Brass Monkeys
Get A Monkey Off Your Back
If You Pay Peanuts, You Get Monkeys
Like Stink On A Monkey
Monkeys Might Fly Out Of My Butt
To Make A Monkey Out Of Someone
Throw A Monkey Wrench Into Something
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Cheeky Monkey
(Well) I’ll Be A Monkey’s Uncle

Keep reading and you will find links to dictionary definitions and more interesting monkey facts.

Monkey – Meaning (Noun and Verb)

monkey noun
an animal with a long tail, that climbs trees and lives in hot countries. There are several types of monkeys and they are related to apes and humans.

  • There are wild monkeys in Japan, but I have never seen one. I hope I can see one on my next trip to the mountains.

Oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com – monkey 

One day I hope I can see a wild snow monkey near a hot spring.

monkey around phrasal verb
(informal) to behave in a silly way

Oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com – monkey-around

In casual conversation, the word monkey can be used as a verb to mean “to play or act carelessly.” It will be used as a phrasal verb so the verb will come before a preposition

  • Don’t monkey with that you’ll break it.
  • I have a few sharp tools in the garage so don’t monkey around in there. 

Compound Nouns With Monkey

monkey bars noun – a tall structure with metal bars across it, for children to climb and play on

  • I used to love playing on the monkey bars when I was in elementary school.
Playing on the monkey bars can also build your arm and shoulder muscles.

monkey nut noun – ​a peanut with its shell still on

  • Pubs and bars always put a bowl of monkey nuts out on the counter. Taking the peanuts out of the shells gives the customer something to do so they stay longer, get thirsty, and drink more alcohol. 
Bruce won’t eat monkey nuts at the bar. He says they are full of germs.

grease monkey noun – a person whose job is repairing cars

  • I’ve been interested in cars since I was nine years old. I love to work on engines and motors, I’ve always known I would be a grease monkey one day.

monkey wrench noun – a tool with a part that can be moved to hold and turn things of different widths

  • Can you get the monkey wrench out of my toolbox for me, please? 
My monkey wrench is red with a brown handle.

monkey business noun – dishonest or silly behavior

  • All right kids, cut out the monkey business and get ready for dinner.

In The News

Japan Man Arrested for Attempted Smuggling of 21 Monkeys
A Saitama man got up to some monkey business at Haneda Airport.
SOURCE

monkey in the middle noun – a children’s game where two people throw a ball to each other over the head of another person who tries to catch it (Also called Keep Away)

  • Playing monkey in the middle was fun as long as you aren’t the monkey in the middle! 

Monkey In The Middle at WikiHow 

brass monkeys – (British English, slang) if you say that it is brass monkeys or brass monkey weather, you mean that it is very cold weather

  • There’s going to be brass monkey weather today so make sure you wear your warm jacket. 

Did you know?

More monkeys live in Brazil than in any other country on Earth. Out of the top 4 countries with the largest monkey populations, only two are in Africa. I was surprised!
Brazil (South America)
Madagascar (Africa)
Indonesia (Asia)
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) (Africa)
SOURCE

Expressions With Monkey

Get A Monkey Off Your Back – to free yourself of something that causes you to worry or difficulty.

  • After 20 years I will finally pay off my mortgage next month. It’ll be great to get that monkey off my back. Now I can think about early retirement. 

If You Pay Peanuts, You Get Monkeys – You can’t expect good merchandise or quality service if you don’t pay much money

  • My friend thought the fee I charged for my private English lessons was too expensive. I explained to him that if you want a good teacher you have to pay a good price, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
I bought a cheap shampoo and it’s making my skin itchy. I guess it’s my fault. If you pay peanuts you get monkeys.

Like Stink On A Monkey – Something that is guaranteed to happen or be done enthusiastically.

  • If you need my help or support just let me know and I’ll be there like stink on a monkey. (I will come right away to support you.)

Monkeys Might Fly Out Of My Butt – The odds of something happening are practically 0. 

  • A: You should buy a lottery ticket, you never know you might win.
    B: I might win and monkeys might fly out of my butt. I think I’ll just keep the money that a lottery ticket costs and buy myself a nice cup of coffee. (The odds of winning the lottery are very small.)

More great idioms here > Learn 25 Body Part idioms – Speak like a native (PDF download)

To Make A Monkey Out Of Someone – To make someone look silly or foolish. 

  • Marcus got so mad at the meeting, he felt like his coworker was trying to make a monkey out of him

(Throw) A (Monkey) Wrench In/Into Something (North American English) ​(to cause) a delay or problem with something that somebody is planning or doing

  • I want to open a cafe downtown in 2019. A great store front became available and I was excited. Unfortunately, the pandemic came and threw a monkey wrench into my plans.
Our plans need to be flexible. Something can always come along and throws a monkey wrench into our plans.

Monkey See, Monkey Do – Copy or imitate someone, usually of a small child copying a bad behavior. 

  • Your little brother is only three so try not to act too silly around him. He loves to copy his older brother, monkey see, monkey do. 

Cheeky Monkey – If someone is being disrespectful or rude we might call them a cheeky monkey

  • I can’t believe she said that! What a cheeky monkey.

(Well) I’ll Be a Monkey’s Uncle – This idiom is used to express complete surprise 

  • Dylan Johnson from high school is now a bank manager? Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle! I would have bet anything that he would end up in jail after all the bad things he did when he was 17. I’m glad he turned his life around.
Really? I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!

Monkeys in Pop Culture

Character

Curious George is a fictional monkey who is the title character of a series of popular children’s books written by Margret and H. A. Rey. Various media, including films and TV shows, have been based on the original book series.
These stories were first written in 1940 and are still popular today.
SOURCE

Curious George

Image credit By Margret and H. A. Rey, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co. – Fair use, LINK

Music

Shock the Monkey is a popular from 1982 by Peter Gabriel.

Movies

Monkey Shines is a 1988 horror movie about a man who is paralyzed (He can’t use his arms or legs) and has a trained monkey help him. The little monkey begins to develop feelings, and rage, against its new master.
IMDb link

The Monkey King: The Legend Begins is a 2022 Fantasy/Action film starring kung-fu action film actor Donnie Yen.
IMDb link

Did I leave out any music or movies with monkeys? Do you know of any more monkey idioms that I can add to this list? Let me know in the comments.

Check out these other great Idiom posts.

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