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monkey wrench

Also called, especially British, adjustable spanner. a wrench having an adjustable jaw permitting it to grasp nuts or the like of different sizes.
something that interferes with functioning; obstacle:
He threw a monkey wrench into our plans.
Origin of monkey wrench


[muhng-kee-rench] /ˈmʌŋ kiˌrɛntʃ/
verb (used with object)
to ruin (plans, a schedule, etc.) unavoidably or, sometimes, deliberately:
The storm monkey-wrenched our plans for a picnic.
verb (used without object)
to prevent, delay, or sabotage industrialization or development of wilderness areas, especially through vandalism.
Related forms
monkey-wrencher, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for monkey wrench
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • All it needs is to have the monkey wrench taken out of the pit.

  • A monkey wrench can be used as a vise for work as light as this.

    Carpentry and Woodwork Edwin W. Foster
  • Mr. Reardon shrieked, and charged, swinging his monkey wrench with all his horsepower.

    Cappy Ricks Retires Peter B. Kyne
  • "Now then, Terence, I have work for you and your monkey wrench," Cappy continued.

    Cappy Ricks Retires Peter B. Kyne
  • He had a monkey wrench in one hand and a greasy rag in the other.

    Captain Scraggs Peter B. Kyne
  • And he went hunting all over the place and finally brought me a monkey wrench!

    Skyrider B. M. Bower
  • Looks like a case of Cupid throwin' a monkey wrench into the gears of commerce, eh?

    Torchy As A Pa Sewell Ford
  • He oughter be'n back in ha'f a' hour, but he come pokin' home 'bout dinner-time wid a screw-driver stidder a monkey wrench.

    The Conjure Woman Charles W. Chesnutt
  • Will ye take it peaceably, ye gossoon, or must I brain ye wit' this monkey wrench?

    Cappy Ricks Retires Peter B. Kyne
British Dictionary definitions for monkey wrench

monkey wrench

a wrench with adjustable jaws
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Slang definitions & phrases for monkey wrench



Promoting preservation of the environment by sabotage

[1975+; fr Edward Abbey's novel The Monkey-Wrench Gang; ultimately fr throw a monkey wrench into the machinery]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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