The English Language is Special

I spend some time every day thinking about different words and their prefixes, origins, etc. It proves to be quite enlightening for a subject of meditation, even if it presents itself on a silly level sometimes:

mon·key – /ˈməNGkē/

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See definitions in:AllMammalMechanicsnoun

1. a small to medium-sized primate that typically has a long tail, most kinds of which live in trees in tropical countries.

2. a pile-driving machine consisting of a heavy hammer or ram working vertically in a groove.


behave in a silly or playful way.

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Also notifiably, I take grateful pride in having fluidity in my English-language-speaking-skills. And then, I think entomology . . . what is the entomology of “monkey”? Think . . . think . . . think . . .

Let’s see what says, while I think:

monkey (n.)

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.

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Then, I’m thinking, “NO! NO! NO! NO! They all have it all wrong!!” Monkey was originally called a “man-key”, because of evolution, and then someone said, “Well that might be quite offensive!” so the word constructer says . . .

“Okay, no worries. I’ll just make it ‘monkey’, so no one will get offended”.


Guys and gals, until next time – may you find all the happiness that your life can fit in it’s happy spot – S.D. McKinley.