One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1dated A cheeky or impertinent person.
mischievous child, imp, monkey, puck, rascal, rogue, minx, mischief-maker, prankster, tearawayView synonyms
- ‘I was at a photo call at the Commons to snap a collection of the new input of MPs, a bunch of braying jackanapes and barrow boys made good in too-expensive suits.’
- ‘The grinning jackanapes who has so arbitrarily dismantled the constitution is now half mad with power.’
- ‘‘Now listen here, you jackanapes,’ I shouted, ‘enough of this horse-play.’’
- ‘I was at school with a Bruno, and as the grinning jackanapes sat at his piano and segued effortlessly from Bach to the Beatles and back again via Satie, nobody queued up to congratulate him; they simply wanted to beat him up.’
- ‘The grinning jackanapes in Number 10 must not be allowed to extinguish Britain's liberties: he and the Great Uncleanness that is New Labour must be evicted from power.’
2archaic A tame monkey.
rascal, rogue, imp, demon, fiend, monkey, wretch, scamp, mischief-maker, troublemaker, badly behaved childView synonyms
- ‘In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, one Peter Palmer, of Lincoln's Inn, brought an action against a barrister of the name of Boyer, for having, with the intention to injure him in his name and practice, said, 'Peter Palmer is a paltry lawyer, and hath as much law as a jackanapes.'’
Early 16th century (originally as Jack Napes): perhaps from a playful name for a tame ape, the initial n- by elision of an ape (compare with newt), and the final -s as in surnames such as Hobbes: applied to a person whose behaviour resembled that of an ape.
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