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a monkey on one's back

a big problem


a monkey on one's back = ein ernsthaftes Problem haben --- GOOGLE INDEX a monkey on his back: approximately 24,000 Google hits



"He had a MONKEY ON HIS BACK because they said he's not getting enough goals in the playoffs. I'm really happy for him. He scored a big one for us."

(The Globe and Mail)

The author of a memoir about his drug addictions has a new MONKEY ON HIS BACK — accusations that he lied about parts of the story "A Million Little Pieces."


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a monkey on one's back

- a serious problem or burden that will not go away

Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms


In addition to its use as a general term for primates, monkey is also slang for a drug addiction. The phrase "a monkey on one's back" originally referred to a drug habit (1930s), but these days it can also refer to a big problem or burden that is difficult to get rid of.

This expression alludes to a monkey clinging to one's back and despite all efforts to shake it off, it just will not go away. In this case, the monkey is a metaphor for a long-term problem or burden. It is frequently used in sports to describe a team, player or coach who is expected to perform well, but has yet to achieve success. Thus the monkey represents the burden of high expectations.

Conversely, if a long-term problem has been solved or if a burden has been lifted, then the expression changes to "get a monkey off one's back" (They won their first game of the season, so the coach got the monkey off his back.)

Monkey can be found in several other expressions:

more fun than a barrel of monkeys — to be very funny or enjoyable

brass monkey weather — extremely cold weather

not give a monkey's — if you do not give a monkey's about something, you do not care about it at all

monkey business — silly behaviour or dishonest behaviour


"Ever since losing his main account he seems to have a monkey on his back."

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