Word Origin & History
O.E. apa, from P.Gmc. *apan (cf. O.S. apo, O.N. api, Du. aap, Ger. affe), perhaps borrowed in P.Gmc. from Celtic (cf. O.Ir. apa) or Slavic (cf. O.Bohemian op, Slovak opitza), probably ult. from a non-I.E. language. The verb "to imitate" (1630s) is implied in to play the ape (1570s), and the noun sense
of "one who mimics" may date from early 13c. Aping "imitation" is recorded from 1680s. Ape-man, hypothetical "missing link," is from 1879, in a translation of Haeckel. To go ape (in emphatic form, go apeshit) "go crazy" is 1955, U.S. slang. To lead apes in hell (1570s) was the fancied fate of one who died an old maid.