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Apes vs. Monkeys: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on November 3, 2023
Apes are larger, tailless primates with more complex brains, while monkeys are smaller primates, typically with tails.

Key Differences

Apes are a group of primates that are larger in size and do not have tails. They possess more advanced cognitive abilities and are closely related to humans. Monkeys, in contrast, are generally smaller and most species have tails which they often use for various functions.
When considering physical structure, apes have a broader chest, a more upright posture, and longer arms compared to their legs. Monkeys usually have a more compact body, longer legs compared to their arms, and exhibit a wide variety of facial structures and tail types.
Behaviorally, apes exhibit more complex social structures and advanced tool use. This complexity is attributed to their larger brain-to-body ratio. Monkeys also display a variety of behaviors and social structures, but they're often considered less complex than their ape counterparts.
Apes include species like gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, and gibbons. They tend to live longer lives and have longer developmental stages, including prolonged childhoods. Monkeys can be split into Old World and New World categories, with species like baboons and capuchins, respectively.
Both apes and monkeys play crucial roles in their ecosystems and are often studied to understand evolutionary biology, behavior, and human ancestry. However, monkeys are more widespread, while apes are limited to certain parts of Africa and Asia.

Comparison Chart


Usually present



Brain Complexity

More complex
Less complex

Physical Structure

Broader chest, longer arms
Compact body, longer legs


Gorillas, Chimpanzees
Baboons, Capuchins

Apes and Monkeys Definitions


Beings capable of complex social interactions and behaviors.
Orangutans, solitary apes, build intricate sleeping nests in trees.


Primates found both in Old World and New World regions.
While baboons are Old World monkeys, squirrel monkeys belong to the New World.


Large primates closely related to humans.
The gorilla, one of the largest apes, is native to Africa.


Beings with a more compact body than apes.
Capuchin monkeys are known for their intelligence and dexterity.


Tailless primates with advanced cognitive abilities.
Chimpanzees, members of the apes family, can use tools for various tasks.


Animals known for their agility and adaptability.
Macaques, a kind of monkeys, thrive in various environments from forests to urban areas.


Primates with longer developmental stages and life spans.
Many apes like chimpanzees live in closely-knit social groups.


Small to medium-sized primates, typically with tails.
Spider monkeys have prehensile tails they use for grasping.


Any of various tailless Old World primates of the superfamily Hominoidea, including the gibbons, orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans.


Any of various tailed primates of the suborder Anthropoidea, including the macaques, baboons, capuchins, and marmosets, and excluding the apes.


Any of various members of this superfamily bearing fur and usually living in the wild, especially orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees, in contrast to humans. Not in scientific use.


A nonhuman ape. Not in scientific use.


A tailed primate such as a monkey. Not in scientific use.


One who behaves in a way suggestive of a monkey, as a mischievous child or a mimic.


A mimic or imitator.


The iron block of a pile driver.


(Informal) A clumsy or boorish person.


(Slang) A person who is mocked, duped, or made to appear a fool
They made a monkey out of him.


To imitate or mimic, especially in a thoughtless or inept way.


Offensive Slang Used as a disparaging term for a person with dark skin.


Plural of ape


To play, fiddle, trifle, or tamper with something
Who was monkeying with my phone?.


Infl of ape


To behave in a mischievous or apish manner
Stop monkeying around!.


Primates with an upright posture and no tail.
Gibbons, also known as lesser apes, are skilled tree-dwellers.


To imitate or mimic; ape.


Plural of monkey


Widespread primates with diverse facial features.
Mandrills, a type of monkeys, have vibrant face and buttock colors.


Do apes have tails?

No, apes do not have tails, distinguishing them from monkeys.

Are humans considered apes?

Yes, humans are classified under the apes category, specifically the great apes.

Are monkeys more widespread than apes?

Yes, monkeys are found in more regions compared to apes which are limited to parts of Africa and Asia.

Which group is more closely related to humans, apes or monkeys?

Apes are more closely related to humans than monkeys.

Do all monkeys have prehensile tails?

Not all monkeys have prehensile tails; it's mainly seen in some New World monkeys.

Do apes use tools?

Yes, some apes like chimpanzees are known to use tools for various tasks.

What's the primary habitat of monkeys?

Monkeys inhabit various environments, from tropical rainforests to savannahs.

What's the main difference in social structure between apes and monkeys?

Apes generally have more complex social structures, while monkeys exhibit a wide variety of social arrangements.

Which are larger, apes or monkeys?

Apes are typically larger than monkeys.

Are all monkeys arboreal?

While many monkeys are arboreal, some, like baboons, are terrestrial.

How do apes communicate?

Apes use a combination of vocalizations, gestures, and facial expressions for communication.

Are there monkeys in North America?

While North America isn't home to native monkeys, introduced populations do exist.

Why are apes studied extensively?

Apes are studied for insights into human evolution, behavior, and genetics due to their close relation to humans.

What's the lifespan of monkeys?

Lifespan varies by species, but many monkeys live anywhere from 10 to 30 years.

Are apes endangered?

Many apes like gorillas and orangutans are endangered due to habitat loss and hunting.

What are New World monkeys?

New World monkeys are those native to the Americas, like capuchins.

Are there apes outside of Africa and Asia?

No, wild apes are native only to Africa and Asia.

Can monkeys be found outside of the wild?

Yes, monkeys can be found in zoos, research facilities, and even as pets, though the latter is often controversial.

Do apes live in family groups?

Yes, many apes like gorillas and chimpanzees live in closely-knit family groups.

Are monkeys considered intelligent?

Yes, many monkeys are known for their problem-solving abilities, tool use, and social behaviors.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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