monkey see monkey do


monkey see, monkey do


  • blindly copying others’ actions without critical thinking.
  • mimicking behavior without understanding or questioning it.
  • imitating actions without considering consequences or rationale.
  • emphasizing the tendency to mimic rather than think independently.

Example Sentences

  1. The kids copied the teacher’s moves, like “monkey see, monkey do,” during the dance.
  2. Some followers mimic their leaders’ actions without thinking, a classic “monkey see, monkey do” scenario in politics.
  3. The intern replicated procedures without understanding them, displaying a “monkey see, monkey do” mentality.
  4. Teenagers often succumb to peer pressure, engaging in “monkey see, monkey do” behavior.
  5. Instead of innovating, some businesses blindly imitate competitors, trapped in a “monkey see, monkey do” cycle.

Origin and History

The phrase “monkey see, monkey do” has intrigued scholars, prompting investigations into its origins. Initially, it was theorized that the phrase stemmed from Chinese Pidgin English, a simplified language used for trade between Chinese and English speakers in the 18th century.

Another claim asserts that the phrase originated in Jamaica during the early 18th century. However, this assertion lacks substantiation and seems to have been propagated without credible sources.

A more plausible origin story traces back to West African folklore. One such tale from Mali involves a hat seller whose wares are stolen by monkeys while he sleeps. Upon waking, he gestures angrily at the monkeys, who mimic his actions. Eventually, in frustration, he throws his own hat down, and the monkeys imitate him, leading to a resolution. Similar stories exist in cultures across Egypt, Sudan, India, and England.

The earliest documented use of “monkey see, monkey do” in print dates back to a November 24, 1895, issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which reads:

“There are one or two sideshows who, by a monkey-see-monkey-does method, do sometimes draw a little trade, but after you buy once, you buy no more.”

However, further exploration into digitized newspaper archives revealed an earlier instance in the July 16, 1893, edition of the Saint Paul Globe. In an advertisement for a shoe sale by a store named The Golden Rule, the phrase is used to describe imitators.

The old saying, “Monkey sees, monkey does,” but it will be of no avail, people.

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