Monkey Business

Meaning of Idiom ‘Monkey Business’

Monkey business means deceitful, mischievous, dishonest conduct; behavior that is not acceptable in a particular context or situation; silly, frivolous, or playful behavior.

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Monkey business can refer to many different types of behavior. Cheating on a test could be called monkey business but so could talking in class or horseplay in class.

It can refer to very serious misconduct, even illegal conduct, or to quite mundane and harmless fun.

Examples Of Use

“Stop the monkey business and pay attention, class,” said the teacher. “There will be a quiz tomorrow.”

“The lawyer made national news by standing up to the president but he was later implicated in some monkey business of his own.”

“The accountant is saying there’s been some monkey business going on with the accounts. He’s looking into it.”

“Don’t get up to any monkey business while we’re gone,” said dad. “No wild parties!”


Used since the late 1800s, this idiom alludes to the tricks and playfulness of monkeys, transferring them to human behavior.

The word ‘business’ is used in the sense of activity, especially activity which is inappropriate or scandalous.

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