- any of a group of anthropoid primates characterized by long arms, a broad chest, and the absence of a tail, comprising the family Pongidae (great ape), which includes the chimpanzee, gorilla, and orangutan, and the family Hylobatidae (lesser ape), which includes the gibbon and siamang.
- (loosely) any primate except humans.
- an imitator; mimic.
- Informal. a big, ugly, clumsy person.
verb (used with object), aped, ap·ing.
- to imitate; mimic: to ape another’s style of writing.
- go ape, Slang. to become violently emotional: When she threatened to leave him, he went ape.
- go ape over, Slang. to be extremely enthusiastic about: They go ape over old rock music.
- any of various primates, esp those of the family Pongidae, in which the tail is very short or absentSee See also
- (not in technical use) any monkey
- an imitator; mimic
- US informal a coarse, clumsy, or rude person
- (tr) to imitate
Old English apa “ape, monkey,” from Proto-Germanic *apan (cf. Old Saxon apo, Old Norse api, Dutch aap, German affe), perhaps borrowed in Proto-Germanic from Celtic (cf. Old Irish apa) or Slavic (cf. Old Bohemian op, Slovak opitza), perhaps ultimately from a non-Indo-European language.
Apes were noted in medieval times for mimicry of human action, hence, perhaps, the other figurative use of the word, to mean “a fool.” To go ape (in emphatic form, go apeshit) “go crazy” is 1955, U.S. slang. To lead apes in hell (1570s) was the fancied fate of one who died an old maid.
“to imitate,” 1630s, but the notion is implied earlier, e.g. to play the ape (1570s), Middle English apeshipe “ape-like behavior, simulation” (mid-15c.); and the noun sense of “one who mimics” may date from early 13c. Related: Aped; aping.