- Archaic a monkey
- a conceited, insolent, presumptuous fellow
- a pert, mischievous child
Origin of jackanapesMiddle English Jac Napes, nickname of William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk (1396-1450), whose badge was a clog and a chain like a tame ape's
- A conceited or impudent person.
- A mischievous child.
- Archaic A monkey or an ape.
Origin of jackanapesFrom Middle English Jack Napis nickname of William de la Pole, Fourth Earl and First Duke of Suffolk (1396-1450) probably ultimately from alteration of ape monkey, ape ( because his coat of arms depicted a chain and clog of the kind used to tether a pet monkey )
jackanapes is originally the singular form, though it is also analyzed as a plural (due to the -s), and hence jackanape was formed as a singular backformation.
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.
In sense “upstart person”, applied to 15th century William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, one of the first nouveau riche nobles (risen from merchant class). The family used a collar and chain on their coat of arms, which was an unfortunate choice, as this was more associated with monkey leashes, leading to the derisive nickname Jack Napis for de la Pole, yielding the insult.
Later mis-analyzed as Jack-an-apes (16th and 17th century), leading to folk etymology (taking “ape” from “monkey”). The same process and mis-analysis occurred for fustian of Naples, which became fustian a napes, fustian anapes, etc.