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I’ll Be a Monkey’s Uncle

older monkey carrying child monkey on it's back. I'll be a monkey's uncle

I’ll Be a Monkey’s Uncle Definition

Well, Ill be a monkey’s uncle! An expression of complete surprise, amazement, or disbelief.

I’ll Be a Monkey’s Uncle Examples

  • Six months after his dog Max ran away Junior found him barking at the back door! First words out of junior’s mouth were “Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!”
  • Grandpa had never used Chinese finger cuffs before. “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle..” he said after I revealed the ancient secret and freed his reddened fingers.


I do not identify as a person with a disability. I’m a disabled person. And I’ll be a monkey’s disabled uncle if I’m going to apologise for that.

Stella Young

“I’ve been watching you,” says Poncho Man. If there are four creepier words in the English language, color me a monkey’s uncle.

David Arnold, Mosquitoland

I’ll Be a Monkey’s Uncle Origin

Spiritual Origin

“WELL, I’M A MONKEY’S UNCLE! Who ever heard of a brass monkey? There Haint no sich animal!” Oh yes there is!

El Paso Herald, July 31, 1917

The earliest mention of our phrase as we use it today appears in an ad in the El Paso Herald newspaper issue of July 31, 1917. The ad is for a comedic play titled Brass Monkey performing at the Unique Theater.

The phrase is believed to have originated as a reference to Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species and Descent of Man published in 1859 and 1871 respectfully. The phrase I’m a monkey’s uncle was supposedly used by creationists to poke fun at Darwin’s theory of evolution at a time when most people believed that man was God’s creation.

Literary Origin

Mr. Frank Matthews was all that a runaway “governor” could hope to be in savage life, with a plurality of wives; while Mr Oxberry was a veritable monkey’s uncle in his rage and jealousy.

The Morning Post, 26 Jan. 1847

The first example of ‘monkey’s uncle’ in text appears in a review in the British English newspaper The Morning Post. The review is for a comic play titled The Wigwum taking place in Canada in an Indian encampment.

While this example is older than Darwin’s Origin of Species, the idea of evolution was not unheard of. But this example could simply be coincidental and is not using the meaning we take from the phrase today.