barrel of monkeys


barrel of monkeys


  • something very funny, diverting, and amusing.
  • something crazy, out of control, or chaotic.
  • a disorderly situation or activity.
  • confusion, things are in disarray.
  • a sense of irregularity, messiness, and lack of order.
  • commotion, things are in a frenzy or state of great agitation.
  • a state of pandemonium.
  • an amusing yet disorderly spectacle.
  • something of a hectic, frenzied nature.

Example Sentences

  1. The traffic jam was a total barrel of monkeys.
  2. The classroom descended into a barrel of monkeys after the substitute teacher left.
  3. When my kids play, it turns into a barrel of monkeys in no time.
  4. My sock drawer is a barrel of monkeys, hopelessly disorganized.
  5. Trying to work and watch my toddler at the same time is a literal barrel of monkeys.
  6. My thoughts become a barrel of monkeys when I see my little daughter laughing.
  7. The toy box after the kids done playing is always a barrel of monkeys.


The “barrel of monkeys” idiom refers to a large number of chaotic messes of interconnected things. The idiom derives from a type of toy that was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These toys consisted of a series of mechanical monkeys attached to each other by their tails and suspended in a barrel. A crank on the side of the barrel would spin the monkeys, causing them to swing around and grasp each other.

The “barrel of monkeys toy” demonstrated the idea of interconnectedness and the tendency of things to become tangled up with each other. When used figuratively, the “barrel of monkeys” idiom implies a comical sense of disorder and interdependence between a large number of objects or individuals. The idiom often refers to chaotic or tumultuous situations involving many interrelated parts.

The first known usage of the phrase dates from the early 20th century, around the same time that the mechanical “barrel of monkeys toy” was popularized. The toy provided a vivid visual image that captured people’s imagination and served as the basis for the idiom. The phrase has endured, even though few people today are familiar with the original Barrel of Monkeys toy. The idiom has become embedded in the English language as a familiar way to refer to a disorderly tangle of interconnected items.

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