Understanding the Idiom: "give a monkey's" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English
Etymology: Possibly a euphemistic shortening of “to give a monkey's toss” or “to give a monkey's shit”.

When it comes to understanding idioms, it can be challenging to decipher their meanings. One such idiom that may leave you scratching your head is “give a monkey’s.” This phrase is commonly used in British English and has a unique meaning that may not be immediately apparent.

To fully grasp the concept behind this idiom, it is essential to understand its context. While some idioms are straightforward, others require more interpretation. Our goal here is to break down the meaning of “give a monkey’s” so that you can use it confidently in your own conversations.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “give a monkey’s”

The phrase “give a monkey’s” is an idiom that has been used in British English for many years. It is often used to express indifference or lack of interest in something, but where did this expression come from?

The Origins of the Phrase

There are several theories about the origins of this idiom, but none can be definitively proven. One theory suggests that it comes from Cockney rhyming slang, where “monkey” was used as a substitute for “money”. In this context, saying someone doesn’t give a monkey’s would mean they don’t care about money.

Another theory suggests that the phrase comes from India during British colonial rule. Monkeys were considered pests and were often killed by locals. The idea behind the phrase could have been that if someone didn’t care about monkeys being killed, they wouldn’t care about anything else either.

The Historical Context

This idiom has been around for at least 50 years and is still commonly used today in British English. It reflects a certain cultural attitude towards apathy or disinterest which may have developed over time due to various social factors such as class differences or political instability.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “give a monkey’s”

Variation Meaning Example
Not give a monkey’s To not care at all “I don’t give a monkey’s what he thinks.”
Couldn’t give a monkey’s toss To not care at all (vulgar) “He couldn’t give a monkey’s toss about his job.”
Giving a flying monkeys / Giving two hoots / Giving a damn / Giving a toss

(All variations meaning ‘to care’)

To show concern or interest in something/someone

(Note: These are opposite meanings to the original idiom.)

“She really gave two hoots about her friend when she was going through tough times.”“I don’t give a damn if you’re late, just make sure you do your work properly!”

(These examples use different variations of the idiom to express caring or concern.)

As seen in the table, there are variations of this idiom that can be used to convey different levels of indifference or interest. It is important to note that some variations may be considered vulgar and should be used with caution.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “give a monkey’s”


There are several synonyms that can be used instead of “give a monkey’s.” These include:

– Not care

– Be indifferent

– Have no interest

– Be apathetic

Using these synonyms can add variety to your language and help you express yourself more clearly.


On the other hand, there are also antonyms that have the opposite meaning of “give a monkey’s.” These include:

– Care deeply

– Be passionate

– Show concern

– Be interested

It is important to know both the synonyms and antonyms of an expression so that you can use it effectively in different situations.

Cultural Insights
In British English, “give a monkey’s” is often shortened to simply “not give a monkeys.”
This idiom is considered informal and may not be appropriate in formal settings.
The origin of this expression is unclear, but it may come from Cockney rhyming slang where “monkey” means £500 (a large sum of money).

Understanding cultural nuances associated with an idiom can help prevent misunderstandings or miscommunications. It also adds depth to your understanding of the language.

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “give a monkey’s”

The first exercise is to read articles or watch videos that contain the idiom “give a monkey’s”. As you come across this phrase, try to identify its context and meaning. You can also take note of how native speakers use this expression in different situations.

The second exercise is to practice using the idiom “give a monkey’s” in your own sentences. Start by thinking of situations where you can use this expression appropriately. For example, if someone asks you if you care about something that doesn’t interest you at all, you can respond with “I don’t give a monkey’s about it.” This exercise will help you become more comfortable with using idiomatic expressions naturally.

The third exercise is to play games or quizzes that focus on idioms like “give a monkey’s”. There are many online resources available that offer fun and interactive ways to learn idioms. Playing these games regularly will not only improve your understanding of idiomatic expressions but also make learning them enjoyable.

Finally, try incorporating the idiom “give a monkey’s” into your daily conversations with friends or family members who speak English fluently. Practice using it in different contexts until it becomes natural for you to do so.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “give a monkey’s”

When using idioms, it is important to understand their meaning and context. The idiom “give a monkey’s” is no exception. However, even if you know what this phrase means, there are still common mistakes that people make when using it.

One mistake is using the wrong tense or form of the verb “give.” This can change the meaning of the idiom entirely. Another mistake is not considering the audience or situation in which you are using the idiom. It may be inappropriate or misunderstood by certain groups of people.

Additionally, some people may use this idiom without understanding its origin or cultural significance. This can lead to misinterpretation and confusion.

To avoid these mistakes, it is important to research and understand an idiom before using it in conversation or writing. Consider your audience and context carefully before incorporating any idiomatic expressions into your language.

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