Green’s Dictionary of Slang

ape n.

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

1. [mid-16C+] a general pej., the implication being of stupidity and lumbering size; thus apishness n.

2. [mid-19C+] (orig. US, also apeman) a derog. term for a black person.

3. [1920s+] a thug, a hoodlum.

4. [1940s] (Aus.) £50; £500.

5. [1980s] (S.Afr.) a white man.

In compounds

ape-ass (n.)

a fool; a general term of abuse.

ape-face (n.)

[1980s] (US) an ugly, thuggish person.

apehangers (n.) (also apehanger handlebars, monkey-hangers) [when riding the motorcycle one’s arms dangle forward like those of an ape]

[1960s+] (orig. US) high, extra-long motorcycle handlebars, favoured by outlaw riders such as Hell’s Angels.

apehead (n.) [-head sfx (1)]

[mid-19C+] (US) a fool, an idiot, thus adj. ape-headed, stupid.

ape oil (n.) [? SE ape or it makes the drinker go ape under ape adj., although this predates]

[1940s] (US) liquor.

In phrases

black ape (n.)

[1920s] (US) a derog. term for a black person.

bush ape (n.) [1940s+]

1. (Aus./US) a peasant.

2. (Aus.) a rural worker.

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

4. (Can./US) a logger.

cliff ape (n.)

[1910s+] (US) a rough, thuggish man.

park ape (n.) [? ref. to apes in Central Park Zoo, New York City]

[1940s+] (US black) an extremely unattractive and very dark-skinned person.

rock ape (n.) [1970s+] (Aus.)

1. a derog. term for a black person.

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