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What is a Code Monkey?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A code monkey is someone who creates code for computer software, also called a programmer, and the term can be used in a number of different ways. If used by others, especially senior programmers in reference to lower level programmers on a project, it is often a somewhat derogatory term, though it can be used jokingly as well. It can also be used by others to refer to programmers in a more neutral tone, simply to evoke the image of someone who works relentlessly at programming. Someone can also use the term “code monkey” in a slightly self-deprecating way, often when a programmer is distancing himself or herself from decisions made by others.

The term “code monkey” is often used as a comedic but potentially insulting term to describe those who create programming, or code, for computer software. When this term is used by non-programmers, it is likely to be considered offensive, though this will depend on the nature of anyone who hears its usage. Higher level programmers, such as senior programmers on a project, will sometimes refer to a lower level programmer as a “code monkey.” This can still be considered an offensive usage, though it may be meant in a more jocular way since most senior programmers once worked at lower levels as well.

A code monkey is typically someone who writes code, but can be used to specifically refer to individuals who are still learning some of the more complex aspects of coding. In this sense of the usage, it will typically indicate a programmer who is only qualified to do basic programming, and not work at a higher level. While this usage of “code monkey” can be somewhat subtle in meaning and subtext, the degree to which it is likely to be considered insulting usually depends on the speaker and listener in a situation.

Someone can also use the term “code monkey” to refer to himself or herself, and in this usage it is often both self-deprecating and intended to indicate the foolishness of someone else. If a programmer disagrees with management in a decision related to the code, but still has to follow the decision regardless of his or her thoughts on the decision, the programmer might say something like, “Don’t ask me why we’re doing this, I’m just a code monkey.” In this usage, the term is somewhat self-deprecating, but also indicates how the programmer feels management views him or her in the situation. This typically indicates that the programmer feels the decision by management is incorrect, and can reflect a schism between those who are managing a project and those writing the code for a project.

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