1520s, also monkie, munkie, munkye, etc., not found in Middle English (where ape was the usual word); of uncertain origin, but likely from an unrecorded Middle Low German *moneke or Middle Dutch *monnekijn, a colloquial word for "monkey," originally a diminutive of some Romanic word, compare French monne (16c.); Middle Italian monnicchio, from Old Italian monna; Spanish mona "ape, monkey." In a 1498 Low German version of the popular medieval beast story Roman de Renart ("Reynard the Fox"), Moneke is the name given to the son of Martin the Ape; transmission of the word to English might have been via itinerant entertainers from the German states.
The Old French form of the name is Monequin (recorded as Monnekin in a 14c. version from Hainault), which could be a diminutive of some personal name, or it could be from the general Romanic word, which may be ultimately from Arabic maimun "monkey," literally "auspicious," a euphemistic usage because the sight of apes was held by the Arabs to be unlucky [Klein]. The word would have been influenced in Italian by folk etymology from monna "woman," a contraction of ma donna "my lady."
In general, any one of the primates except man and lemurs; in more restricted use, "an anthropoid ape or baboon;" but popularly used especially of the long-tailed species often kept as pets. Monkey has been used affectionately or in pretended disapproval of a child since c. 1600. As the name of a type of modern popular dance, it is attested from 1964.
Monkey suit is from 1876 as a type of child's suit; by 1918 as slang for "fancy dress clothes or uniform." To make a monkey of "make a fool of" is attested from 1851. To have a monkey on one's back "be addicted" is 1930s narcotics slang, though the same phrase in the 1860s meant "to be angry." There is a story in the Sinbad cycle about a tormenting ape-like creature that mounts a man's shoulders and won't get off, which may be the root of the term. In 1890s British slang, to have a monkey up the chimney meant "to have a mortgage on one's house." The Japanese three wise monkeys ("see no evil," etc.) are attested in English by 1891.
1859, "to mock, mimic" (as a monkey does), from monkey (n.). Meaning "play foolish tricks" is from 1881. To monkey (with) "act in an idle or meddlesome manner" is by 1884. Related: Monkeyed; monkeying.
old style of wrench with a jaw adjustable by a screw mechanism on the handle, 1841, from monkey (n.) + wrench (n.). Monkey was used in 19c. especially by sailors, as a modifier for various types of small equipment made for specific work (monkey-block, monkey-boat, monkey-spar, etc.), and the same notion probably is behind the name of the tool. The figurative sense of "something that obstructs operations" is from the notion of one getting jammed in the gears of machinery (compare English spanner in the works).
also monkeyshines, "monkeyish behavior, tricks, pranks, antics," U.S. slang, 1832 (in the "Jim Crow" song), from monkey (n.) + shine (n.) "a caper, trick" (1835), from an American English slang sense perhaps related to the expression cut a shine "make a fine impression" (1819); see slang senses under shine (n.). For sense of the whole word, compare Old French singerie "disreputable behavior," from singe "monkey, ape."
Also compare monkey business"foolish or deceitful conduct," attested by 1858; one early source from England describes it as a "native Indian term," but the source might be that alluded to in, among other places, this contemporary account given by a professional strongman:
After Gravesend I came up to London, and went and played the monkey at the Bower Saloon. It was the first time I had done it. There was all the monkey business, jumping over tables and chairs, and all mischievous things; and there was climbing up trees, and up two perpendicular ropes. I was dressed in a monkey's dress; it's made of some their hearth rugs; and my face was painted. It's very difficult to paint a monkey's face. I've a great knack that way, and can always manage anything of that sort. [Mayhew, "London Labour and the London Poor," 1861]
1909 as a heraldic animal, 1964 as a U.S. proprietary name for brine shrimp (Artemia salina), which had been raised as food for aquarium fish but were marketed as pets by U.S. inventor Harold von Braunhut (1926-2003), who also invented "X-Ray Specs" and popularized pet hermit crabs. He began marketing them in comic book advertisements in 1960 as "Instant Life," and changed the name to Sea Monkeys in 1964, so called for their long tails.
Old English apa (fem. ape) "an ape, a monkey," from Proto-Germanic *apan (source also of Old Saxon apo, Old Norse api, Dutch aap, German affe), probably a borrowed word, perhaps from Celtic (compare Old Irish apa, Welsh epa) or Slavic (compare Old Bohemian op, Slovak opitza), and the whole group probably is ultimately from an Eastern or non-Indo-European language.
The common word in English until the emergence of monkey in 16c. More technically, in zoology, "a simian; a tail-less, man-like monkey," by 1690s. The only native apes in Europe are the Barbary apes of Gibraltar, intelligent and docile, and these were the showman's apes of the Middle Ages. Apes were noted in medieval times for mimicry of human action, hence, perhaps, the other figurative use of the word, to mean "a fool" (c. 1300).
To go ape "go crazy" is by 1953 (unsanitized or emphatic go apeshit is by 1954), American English; early attestations suggest armed forces slang. To lead apes in hell (1570s) was the fancied fate of one who died an old maid. Middle English plural was occasionally apen. Middle English also had ape-ware "deceptions, tricks."
East Indian monkey, 1757, from French macaque, from Portuguese macaco "monkey," a Bantu word brought from Africa to Brazil (where it was applied 17c. to a type of monkey there). Introduced as a genus name 1840.
late 14c., "small ape or monkey," from Old French marmoset "grotesque figurine; fool, jester" (late 13c.), perhaps a variant of marmote "long-tailed monkey, ape," then, as a term of endearment, "little child." It is said to be from marmonner, marmotter "to mutter, mumble," which is probably of imitative origin. Some French authorities suggest a derivation of marmoset from marmor "marble," as if "little marble figurine." The English word was applied from early 17c. specifically to a type of small squirrel-like South American monkey.
type of small South American monkey, 1832, from native name in Tupi, probably imitative.