monkey business

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From monkey +‎ business, probably a calque of Bengali বাঁদরামি (bãdrami, mischief, literally monkey behaviour), from বাঁদর (bãdor, monkey) + -আমি (-ami, suffix forming nouns referring to the properties, qualities, or states of the words to which it is attached),[1] from the perception that monkeys behave mischievously.


  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˈmʌŋkɪ ˌbɪznɪs/, /-nɪz/, [-nəs], [-nəz]
  • (General American) IPA(key): /ˈmʌŋki ˌbɪznɪs/, /ˈməŋ-/, /-nɪz/, [-nəs], [-nəz]
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: monk‧ey busi‧ness


monkey business (uncountable) (idiomatic, informal)

  1. Activity that is mischievous, stupid, or time-wasting. [from mid 19th c.]
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:mischief
    Stop all this monkey business and do your homework!
    • 1918 December 10, J[oseph] Allan Dunn, “The Man With the Mole”, in Detective Story Magazine, volume XIX, number 5, New York, N.Y.: Street & Smith Corporation, →OCLC, chapter VIII (The End of Baldy), page 39, column 1:
      I’m going to take off the cuffs, Slim, and off you, Jerry. But don’t try any monkey business. When Peters answers the door, you tell him everything’s O. K., and that you’re the committee, see? Once the door’s open, we’ll do the rest.
    • 2008 May 1, “Monkey Business With ‘Bigfoot’ And ‘Big Monkey’”, in Malaysia Today[1]:
    • 2020 January 24, Neil Tennant, Chris Lowe (lyrics and music), “Monkey Business”, in Hotspot, performed by the Pet Shop Boys:
      I'm looking for monkey business / Just playing around / I'm here on monkey business / And look what I found
  2. Activity that is morally questionable or even mildly illegal.
    Synonyms: hanky-panky; see also Thesaurus:badness
    She wondered what sort of monkey business her neighbour was up to, sneaking out of his house at 1:00 am.
    • 1925, John Dos Passos, “Revolving Doors”, in Manhattan Transfer, New York, N.Y., London: Harper & Brothers, →OCLC, 3rd section, page 328:
      If you ever hear a man talking about his duty as a citizen, by the Living Jingo dont trust him. … He's up to some kind of monkey business nine times out of ten. You dont know what a relief it is to me that you and Joe are comfortably settled in life.

Related terms[edit]



  1. ^ monkey business, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2019; “monkey business, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

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