Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A conceited or impudent person.
  • n. A mischievous child.
  • n. Archaic A monkey or an ape.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A monkey.
  • n. An impudent or mischievous person.
  • n. Plural form of jackanape.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A monkey; an ape.
  • n. A coxcomb; an impertinent or conceited fellow.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A monkey; an ape.
  • n. Hence A coxcomb; a ridiculous, impertinent fellow.
  • n. In mining, the small guide-pulleys of a whim.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. someone who is unimportant but cheeky and presumptuous

Etymologies

From Middle English Jack Napis, nickname of William de la Pole, Fourth Earl and First Duke of Suffolk (1396-1450).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
1450, from “Jack of Naples”, with “of Naples” rendered “a Napes” in vernacular. Originally rendered as Jac Napes, Jac Nape, and Jack Napis in 1450s. Presumably from *Jak a Napes, and original *Jak of Naples, presumably circa 1400. Monkeys were one of many exotic goods from Naples exhibited in Britain, hence acquired the nickname Jack a Napes. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • One of my father's repertory of scathing insults.

    (Nickname, Jack Napes) Perhaps first applied and referring to Wm. de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, (15th cent.), whose badge was a clog and chain like that of a tame ape.

    A conceited or impertinent fellow; a pert child.

    January 11, 2009