monkey on one's back

Idioms & Phrases

monkey on one's back

  1. Drug addiction, as in He'd had a monkey on his back for at least two years. [Slang; first half of 1900s]

  2. A vexing problem or burden, as in This project has proved to be a monkey on my backthere seems to be no end to it. Both usages allude to being unable to shake off the animal from one's back.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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