Green’s Dictionary of Slang

ape n.

[SE ape; note derog. use of ape as fool is found in Chaucer]

1. a general pej., the implication being of stupidity and lumbering size; thus apishness n.

[UK]Chaucer Miller’s Tale line 3389: Thus she maketh Absolon hir ape.
[UK]J. Heywood A Merry Play in Farmer Dramatic Writings (1905) 83: Now, by my troth, it is a pretty jape, / For a wife to make her husband her ape.
[UK]Jacke Juggler Di: There was neuer Ape so lyke unto Ape As he is to me.
[UK]Nashe Martin-Marprelate Tractes in Works I (1883–4) 165: But as the Ape, the more sagelie you looke on him, the more he grinneth; and the foole, the more substantiallie you reason with him, the lesse he vnderstandeth.
[UK]Lyly Mother Bombie II i: Weele bite thee for an ape if thou bob vs lyke asses.
[UK]Dekker Gul’s Horne-Booke 26: In an Ordinary you shall find the variety of a whole kingdome in a few Apes of the kingdome.
[UK]Massinger & Field Fatal Dowry (1632) IV i: Let’s leaue the mad Ape.
G. Wither Britain’s Remembrancer canto I 18: The scarlet-whore / Had with her charmed Cup of poisoned wine, / Transform’d them into Asses, Apes and swine.
[UK]T. Nabbes Covent Garden II ii: Thou art a Baboone of formality, and an ape of court-ship.
[UK]H. Mill Nights Search I 66: This lustful Ape, thinks he has got a prey.
[UK]R. Brathwait Age for Apes 192: In ev’ry Country shop wee have them full. For you must know the Country’s no such Ape But it can City-fashions imitate.
Poor Robin’s Character of France 8: Then did he [...] thrust out his shoulders in such a ridiculous posture, that made my Worship to laugh heartily to see the Ape.
[UK]F. Fane Love in the Dark I i: The Apes of chattering Frenchmen, that boast Of every Ladies favour they once saw.
[UK]A Character of London-Village 1: Where Fop and Flutter Each the Other Greets, Each Mimick Posture does an Ape present.
[UK]S. Wesley Maggots 124: Your heroick Lines had rendred [sic] your Ape-ship more rediculous then an Ass.
[UK] ‘The Crafty Country Woman’ in Ebsworth Bagford Ballads (1878) I 35: [of a woman] But in a short time after, / this simple foolish Ape / Arrested her Husband, / And then she swore a Rape.
[UK] ‘Song’ in Playford Pills to Purge Melancholy II 42: And when they have done, they all return again / Like so many Apes, each with his Golden Chain.
[UK]W. Godwin Caleb Williams (1966) 157: With your apishness and absurdity however you have taught me one thing.
[UK]D. Carey Life in Paris 218: Am I obliged to turn puppy [...] to be fit to sit or dance with a company of apes and demireps?
[UK]Mr Mathews’ Comic Annual 22: As to the stupid ape, her son Andrew, we can soon settle him.
[US]T. Haliburton Letter-bag of the Great Western (1873) 65: A colonial super-ultra-high-Tory, is of the genus blockhead, species ape.
[UK]Paul Pry 29 Jan. 3/1: Paul Advises [...] J—n L—r, of Pentonville, not to be seen dancing about the street with a parcel of apes, as big, fat, and foolish as himself.
[UK]Paul Pry (London) 15 Aug. n.p.: THE BRISTOL APE. [...] To be seen alive, a splendid specimen of the Ape. He has a small head, small eyes, and very little brains. This biped answers to thejjfiame of Jack SI— de, alias The Lushy Wheelwright.
[UK]G.A. Sala Strange Adventures of Captain Dangerous 191: You wretched rebellious little Ape.
[US]A.C. Swinburne letter 30 Jan. in H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 19: [on R.W. Emerson] A gap-toothed and hoary-headed ape, carried at first into notice on the shoulder of Carlyle, and who now in his dotage spits and chatters from a dirtier perch of his own finding and fouling.
[US]Salt Lake Trib. (UT) 5 Dec. 51/2: You little ape!
[Ire]Joyce Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man 233: You flaming floundering fool! I’ll take my dying bible there isn’t a bigger bloody ape, do you know, than you in the whole flaming bloody world!
[UK]Marvel 17 July 7: Will you get off that gangway, you calm-faced ape?
[Aus]Smith’s Wkly (Sydney) 11 Aug. 15/4: Presently we sights Em and the ape. They got two bottles of Oh My Dear.
[US]C. Himes ‘Prison Mass’ Coll. Stories (1990) 155: The Kid’s mother is dying, you ape.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 6 Sept. 40/4: ‘Supposin’ that ape of yours meets someone better than himself first crack out of the box and turns out to be a dud?’.
[US]D. Runyon ‘The Big Umbrella’ Runyon on Broadway (1954) 562: You can boff this big ape.
[Aus]L. Glassop We Were the Rats 80: Don’t take any notice of that ape.
[Ire] (con. 1900s) S. O’Casey Drums Under the Windows 194: For one pin, you conceited, third-class ape, I’d knock you off the scaffold.
[Aus]T.A.G. Hungerford Riverslake 26: Go on, get out of the kitchen, you bloody ape!
[UK]C. MacInnes Absolute Beginners 31: The poor old ape was such an H-Certificate product.
[UK]A. Wesker Chips with Everything II x: Why do you want to pick on me, you lunatics, you bloody apes.
[US]‘Red’ Rudensky Gonif 125: Ired, when the hell are you going to learn that you can’t let every ape get your goat?
[US](con. c.1970) G. Hasford Short Timers (1985) 162: I’m ready to jump on your program, you fucking ape.
[US]J. Doyle College Sl. Dict. 🌐 apes [CMU] fraternity brothers.
[Aus]Tupper & Wortley Aus. Prison Sl. Gloss. 🌐 Ape. Derogatory term for another inmate.
[Can](con. 1920s) O.D. Brooks Legs 159: The big ape grabbed me by the shoulder [...] and growled, ‘You clumsy jerkoff, why don’t you look what you’re doing?’.
[US]C. Hiaasen Nature Girl 20: They sent some Mexican ape from Security to [...] hustle me out of the building.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Viva La Madness 334: Fuck those bodyguards — paira apes ain’t getting shit.
M.C. Funk ‘Spill Site’ in ThugLit Sept./Oct. [ebook] Big Dan wondered why he bothered paying apes like Delacey.
[Aus]D. Whish-Wilson Old Scores [ebook] ‘Good job taking down Dragic. I always hated that ape’.

2. (orig. US, also apeman) a derog. term for a black person.

[UK] ‘Uncle Sam’s Peculiarities’ in Bentley’s Misc. 271: [addressing three negroes] D’ye think I’m going to turn my boat into a zoological institute, and have nothing but chattering scratching apes in her?
[US]Parsons Wkly Eclipse (KS) 25 Aug. 2/3: ‘Come heah, George Washington, you black ape,’ exclaimed Rev. Aminidab Bledso.
[US]Mencken ‘Designations for Colored Folk’ in AS XIX:3 174: The DAE does not list such vulgar synonyms for Negro as ape.
[Aus](con. 1940s) T.A.G. Hungerford Sowers of the Wind 109: ‘What can we use, Andy?’ ‘Use?’ ‘Yes — to do the black apes over with. There’s six of them!’.
[US]C. Cooper Jr Scene (1996) 35: The ape who was sleeping with her [...] wouldn’t be one to let a mere hundred and seventeen dollars stand in the way of something this yellow bitch had her heart set on.
[UK]W. Donaldson Balloons in Black Bag 90: If the Major calls him darky, sooty, [...] boogie, ape, jassbo, jigaboo, eightball, seal, jungle bunny, skunk or Zulu to his face, we’re going to be short of a valuable new comedy act.
[US]I.L. Allen Lang. of Ethnic Conflict 50: Animal Metaphors: ape [also baboon].
[US]S. King It (1987) 907: You nigger boogie night-fighter jungle-bunny apeman coon!
[Aus]B. Moore Lex. of Cadet Lang. 13: ape a black; a negro.
[UK](T. Fontana) ‘Gray Matter’ Oz ser. 4 ep. 5 [TV script] You should have pulled those apes off me.
[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 125: The flip side is the ape they got ploughing her. Some gorilla they found inna jungle someplace.

3. a thug, a hoodlum.

[US]C. McKay Home to Harlem 53: Zeddy, the ape, who was scared of no man in the place, became humble before the woman.
[US]W.R. Burnett High Sierra in Four Novels (1984) 288: ‘He reminds me of a cross between a farmer and a refined gorilla.’ [...] ‘Yeah [...] he’s a big ape all right.’.
[US]J. Evans Halo in Blood (1988) 180: You’ve got an ape called Ownie, who packs a sap.
[UK]J. Curtis Look Long Upon a Monkey 66: Not interested in the other apes, he told Stringy all that had to be said.
[US]P. Rabe Murder Me for Nickels (2004) 67: One, two, three lump-muscled apes jumped out. Then two more [...] all lump-muscled and goonish.
[US]E. Tidyman Shaft 142: You two apes sitting in that saloon.
[US]T. Philbin Under Cover 217: She was looking forward to a great night: getting all gussied up to turn the ape on.
[US]A. Rodriguez Spidertown (1994) 91: Did’ju tell those apes you had eyeballin’ me t’ slash my tires?
[UK]N. Barlay Crumple Zone 105: What an ape. Eyeing you up. I think you’re in there.
[US]C. Stella Jimmy Bench-Press 48: He’s the ape at the table inside the corner window.

4. (Aus.) £50; £500.

[Aus]Baker Popular Dict. Aus. Sl.

5. (S.Afr.) a white man.

[SA]B. Simon ‘Score Me the Ages’ Born in the RSA (1997) 136: lennie. It’s the ou in the white BM you must watch man – white BM trouble you. boykie. BM trouble-you hey ... what do you chune if he stops? [...] lennie. You pull up your zip and you fuck off man ... HEY! APIE! boykie. Jussis, hy lyk soos apie.

In compounds

ape-ass (n.)

a fool; a general term of abuse.

[UK](con. 1940s) D. MacCuish Do Not Go Gentle (1962) 140: Calm down, ape ass, he told himself.
ape-face (n.)

(US) an ugly, thuggish person.

[US]M. Rodgers Freaky Friday 58: You know I love being called Ape Face. It’s a real neat nickname.
[US]‘Joe Bob Briggs’ Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In 15: The tough guys in felt hats come back with this ape-face who looks like Yul Brynner in a Santa Claus suit.
apehangers (n.) (also apehanger handlebars, monkey-hangers) [when riding the motorcycle one’s arms dangle forward like those of an ape]

(orig. US) high, extra-long motorcycle handlebars, favoured by outlaw riders such as Hell’s Angels.

[US]Pop. Science 186 162: ‘Ape-hanger’ handlebars qualify you to ride with the wild ones.
[US]New Yorker 11 Dec. 164: The swooping handlebars known among the motorcycle avant-garde as ape hangers.
[US]Chopper Mag. Feb. 28/1: Straightening the pre-1948 bars out and bringing them back makes nice monkey-hangers.
[UK]S. Berkoff East in Decadence and Other Plays (1985) 70: I’m a Harley Davidson with ape-hangers.
[US]S. King Different Seasons (1995) 192: Todd looked at it [...] holding the grips of his bike’s apehanger handlebars.
[US](con. 1970s) G. Pelecanos King Suckerman (1998) 100: He clutched the ape-hanger handlebars in the crucifix position.
Cycle World Jan. 66/2: The current setup—metalflake paint, apehangers, shotgun pipes, spool front hub, suicide clutch—seems like a keeper.
R.R. Copp I Just Wanna Ride 34: He rides a Fat Boy with ape hangers and loud pipes that would make Captain America proud.
[US]S.A. Crosby Razorblade Tears 190: [T]he ape hangers were bent in all the wrong places.
apehead (n.) [-head sfx (1)]

(US) a fool, an idiot, thus adj. ape-headed, stupid.

[UK]Reynolds’s Newspaper 24 July 1/1: This would not suit the plans of the ape-headed and tiger-hearted people.
[UK]H. Kingsley Hillyars and Burtons (1870) 314: Ha! One single face left in all the world, and all the rest chattering ape-heads.
[UK]Reynolds’s Newspaper 24 July 1/4: The fat-sided, ape-headed boobies of princes whose laudation is a favourite topic.
[US]Anderson Intelligencer (Anderson Court Hse, SC) 28 Aug. 1/6: These ape-headed pullets which invent [...] foot fangels merely for fashion’s sake.
[US]Salt Lake Herald (UT) 13 Jan. 4/1: His words reflect the foul-mouthed ape-headed, rotten-hearted, moral, mental and social degenerate that he is.
[US]E. Dahlberg Bottom Dogs 145: Well, ole Moose [...] wasn’t as hot on running that ape-head up on the bid.
ape oil (n.) [? SE ape or it makes the drinker go ape under ape adj., although this predates]

(US) liquor.

[US] ‘More Tennessee Expressions’ in AS XVI:1 Feb. 446/2: ape oil. Liquor. ‘Salie’s man likes his ape oil.’.

In phrases

black ape (n.)

(US) a derog. term for a black person.

[E.R. Burroughs Son of Tarzan [ebook] Tarmangani, or great white ape, [...] described the white man [...] Gomangani—great black ape, or Negro—described none of them so they called themselves plain Mangani].
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Young Manhood in Studs Lonigan (1936) 213: For every white man killed in the riots, ten black apes ought to be massacred.
E. Wheaton Mr George’s Joint 337: Ah ain’t marry that black ape. Ah ain’t lak him.
[US]R. Leveridge Walk on the Water 333: Black ape! That’s what she was! Black ape! [...] That Filipina last night.
L. Webb Sparhawk 191: I was in a very bad condition, what with that murdering black ape circling the table and ready to take my honor.
Negro Digest June 62/2: Well, nigger means just one thing to the white man: a black ape with rheumatism in the joint.
M. Mirer Modern Black Stories 5: Look at the black ape. That’s the worst of giving these Kaffirs enough rope.
(ref. to 1952)L.L. King Warning: Writer at Work 54: What was perhaps less normal was the number of persons who cried, ‘Kill that black ape,’ and other racist exhortations.
(con. 1953) S.B. Graham Hearts Echoes #3 173: Catherine [...] saw that a car driven by a Negro was tailgating. ‘I wish that black ape would stay back there. He’s way too close’.
bush ape (n.)

1. (Aus./US) a peasant.

[UK]A.B. Hollingshead Elmtown’s Youth (1975) 81: The area below the canal [...] down by the garbage dump; where the river rats live; behind the tannery; the bush apes’ home; squatters’ paradise; where you’ll find the God-damned yellow hammers.
[Aus]J. Byrell (con. 1959) Up the Cross 126: Bush apes and bushrangers were there to have a go at picking the pockets of the bush baptists and bush lawyers.
[US]H.A. Covington Slow Coming Dark 262: That yellow dog, ridge-running bush ape you married.

2. (Aus.) a rural worker.

[Aus]Baker Aus. Lang. 75: bush apes (rural or bush workers).

3. (Aus.) an itinerant fruit-picker, usu. in Queensland.

[Aus]Baker Aus. Lang. 75: bush apes ([...] fruit-pickers in South Australia).

4. (Can./US) a logger.

Brit. Columbia Lumberman 46 5: This concept of the ‘bush ape’ is kept alive by cartoonists, reporters and authors who either have no real knowledge of the ways of a logger.
Soc. Amer. Foresters Town Meeting Forestry 69: The logger has too long been described as a ‘bush ape’. [...] Because of the ‘bush ape’ stigma attached to logging labor, there is little prestige in the job.
H. White Writing in the Rain 114: I’d seen a picture in The Glory Days of Logging of a toothless bush ape standing by a log dump.
D. MacKay Lumberjacks 82: A ‘bush ape’ [...] could lose up to 50 pounds in a couple of months at such work until he was mostly bone and muscle.
cliff ape (n.)

(US) a rough, thuggish man.

[US]N. Algren Never Come Morning (1988) 66: Who’s that cliff-ape?
[US]S. Coonts Flight of the Intruder (2006) 192: Rucic would probably crucify him in the press, paint him as an insensitive cliff ape who didn’t care who he killed.
S. Coonts Under Siege [ebook] I’ve taken all the insults I’m going to off that cliff- ape.
park ape (n.) [? ref. to apes in Central Park Zoo, New York City]

(US black) an extremely unattractive and very dark-skinned person.

[US]Z.N. Hurston ‘Story in Harlem Sl.’ in Novels and Stories (1995) 1009: Park ape: an ugly, underprivileged Negro.
[US]R.S. Gold ‘Vernacular of the Jazz World’ in AS XXXII:4 277: park ape. An ugly, underprivileged Negro.
[US]D. Pinckney High Cotton (1993) 26: A time [...] when blacks were wanted so desperately that any park ape who could manage long division was admitted.
R. Riley Life Lessons 39: The Atlanta news executive who watched Harry warn a hotel clerk who had lost his kids’ room reservations not to make him jump across the desk and act like a ‘park ape’.
rock ape (n.) (Aus.)

1. a derog. term for a black person.

[US]Evergreen Rev. 12 26: Bring me red wine you hairy assed Rock Ape or I drink it from your throat!
[Aus]Bulletin 17 June 4: The good relationships which these expatriates develop is too often counteracted by the Territorian [of P.N.G.] who refers to his workers as ‘rock apes’ or ‘kanakas’.
[Aus]Australian 5 Feb. Mag. 1: ‘Coons, spiks, boongs, rock-apes, sunshines, I can’t stand them,’ he said. ‘Namatjira’s in the right place, six feet under.’ [GAW4].
Aus. Associated Press 23 June 🌐 A country doctor who was ordered to pay $4,000 in damages after calling an Aboriginal man who attended his surgery a ‘rock ape’ may be struck off the medical register.
G. Cowlishaw Blackfellas, Whitefellas, and the Hidden Injuries of Race 70: The day after the Riot and he saw ‘rock ape’ written down beside his name as an alias on his charge sheet.

2. anyone viewed with disfavour, e.g. a teenager.

European 61-6 189: You rock ape, one of them always said, if I missed a trick.
M. Eldridge Walking the Dog 217: Who’s walking you home, not those rockapes, I trust? [GAW4].
[Aus]Age (Melbourne) 24 Apr. Life 3: Rock ape / rocky / knuckle dragger: A stupid crook [GAW4].