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Monkey See Monkey Do

monkey looking in mirror. monkey see monkey do

Monkey See Monkey Do Definition

Monkey see, monkey do.

  • Learning how to do something without understanding why it works.
  • Imitating something for no reason or without understanding the consequences.

Monkey See Monkey Do Examples

  • My toddler thought folding laundry was a game, so I let her play. Now I’m done twice as fast as I planned. Monkey see, monkey do!
  • Monkey see, monkey do. My friend followed all the same steps I did to start his small business. But I think he lacks the patience and understanding of the challenges it takes to last in the long term.


Crime growth cause in USA? TV … Monkey see, monkey do.

Michelee Morgan Cabot

I think when I was about 12 or 13, my dad started taking me out to the local golf course, and that’s the first time I ever hit a golf ball. I picked it up pretty quickly, just kind of monkey-see, monkey-do. But when I was 12, golf was so slow to me. For me, it was basketball, girls and music.

Justin Timberlake

Monkey See Monkey Do Origin

Spiritual Origin

The People’s Store sells goods right from the jump for less money than any other store in the town. The People’s Store don’t wait until someone else has a reduction or a new store comes along and advertises to sell goods cheap and then copy and try to follow suit. Oh, no! No “monkey see, monkey do, business about The People’s Store, They are the only, the real, live, all wool and yard-wide strictly one price, strictly low price and strictly cash store in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Sentinel, 30 November 1889

The earliest example of our phrase as we use it today appears to come in an advertisement from a newspaper local to Santa Cruz, California circa 1889. The ad is for The People’s Store, a good’s store that advertises honest cheap goods, appearing to be a clothes store.

The store claims to have replaced the ‘Bankrupt Store’ and is located next to the farmer’s union. You know, in case you find yourself in 1889 and in need of some cheap good quality clothes

Spiritual Origin

The Hat Seller and the Monkeys: A West African Tale is a children’s book written by the West African Sculptor and author Baba Wagué Diakité and published in 1999. Wagué was born in Bamako, Mali, West Africa and raised by his grandmother. She raised him on wise tales and local stories that inspired his later career.

The tale is about a traveling hat merchant on his way to a festival to sell his wares. He stops to nap under a mango tree and has his wares stolen by mischievous monkeys. The monkeys mimic the hat seller’s behavior as an early example of our idiom’s meaning.

While the book itself was published in 1999, Wagué claims the tale that inspired it can be found in Egypt, Sudan, India and Europe and existed as far back as the Middle Ages. One source claims the tale could likely originate in Wagué’s home city of Mali, with the hat seller travelling to Timbuktu. Timbuktu has been a permanent settlement in West Africa since the early 12th century and at one time was a prosperous center of culture, trade and learning.