• 3-minute read
  • 14th December 2019

Monkeying Around: 5 Phrases for World Monkey Day

Having a monkey on your back sounds scary, but luckily idioms aren’t literal! And since it’s World Monkey Day, we’re looking at some monkey-based phrases that you can use in your writing. So let’s stop monkeying around and get down to monkey business! How many of these do you know?   

1. Monkeying Around

When someone is “monkeying around,” they are being playful or silly:

Please stop monkeying around in class!

He monkeys around in the office all day.

The phrase conjures an image of literally playing around like a monkey (rather than acting like a serious Homo sapiens). The mischievous nature of monkeys is, in fact, a common theme in monkey phrases!

2. Cheeky Monkey

If a British person calls you a “cheeky monkey,” they are calling you silly or mischievous. It is usually a rebuke, but a playful or fond one:

My niece stole my lipstick. What a cheeky monkey!

My sister was such a cheeky monkey when she was little.

This is also a common phrase in Australia, but less so in American English.

If anything, this monkey looks very serious.
If anything, this monkey looks very serious.
(Photo: Kevin Jones/Flickr)

3. No Monkey Business, Please!

“Monkey business” refers to frivolous or deceitful behavior. This phrase is slightly more serious in tone than the ones above, but it is still very informal:

The kids got up to some monkey business at the party!

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The boss doesn’t have time for monkey business.

We can also find similar phrases in modern Sanskrit (vānara-karman, where vānara = monkey + karman = action, work) and Hindi (vānara-karma).

4. Having a Monkey on Your Back

This phrase refers to problem or burden that is difficult to control or escape:

She got that monkey off her back when she gave up smoking.

His money problems are a real monkey on his back.

Of course, having an actual monkey on your back could also be a problem that is difficult to control or escape, as this slightly odd advert shows.

5. Making a Monkey Out of Someone

With this phrase, we return to silliness. To make a monkey out of someone means to make someone or oneself look foolish or ridiculous:

My friends made a monkey out of me with their prank.

I made a monkey out of myself by spilling the coffee.

Are there any other monkey-based phrases you enjoy? Let us know in the comments if there are! And if you have any documents you’d like proofread, you can try our services for free. We’ll even check your use of idioms for you!

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