We have an idiom in Spain: ser el último mono (to be [someone] the last monkey)

Let me quote the DRAE (Diccionario de la Real Academia Española de la Lengua)

ser alguien el último mono

  1. loc. verb. coloq. Ser insignificante

Translated: to be a nobody

A more elaborated explanation [from here]

Ser el último mono dentro de un grupo: la última persona a la que le cuentan algo, la última persona que recibe una propuesta, el último al que avisan para alguna actividad, la persona a la que nadie pide su opinión


Being the last monkey in a group: the last one to be told something, the last one to receive a proposal, the last one to be invited to an event, the person never asked about his opinion

Used in a workplace environment, it may mean that there are a lot of bosses and few real workers. Being the last means that you can not delegate, that you have to do the job.

Is there any equivalent idiom in English?

Let me illustrate the term with a pair of images from the great Argentinian artist known as Quino showing how you can be the last monkey working for a Big Company.

Illustration of one person rowing a boat filled with people


What? You don't want to keep rowing?? I'm puzzled, Fernández!!!

Are we or are we not in the same boat?]

Illustration showing a crew team with one rower and four coxswains

EDITED: Thanks to @FumbleFingers' comment, I've searched the Spanish idiom's origin.

According to Instituto Cervantes, it comes from the proverb

El último mono es el que se ahoga / The last monkey is the one who drowns at the end

The Instituto marks this English proverb as equivalent

The devil take the hindmost

But it may have some kind of relation with

as long as they [Gibraltar's monkeys] remain, so will the British

Who knows? No proof has been found to back up or deny this point.

  • This puts me in mind of the saying about Gibraltar’s Barbary macaques - as long as they remain, so will the British. I can't help thinking the Spanish idiom being discussed here is in some way connected - the question is: Which came first, and did it actually lead to the other? Commented May 24, 2018 at 15:02
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    Note that in In BrE at least, it's quite normal to refer to someone as the lowest of the low to mean they're "at the bottom of the social heap". Commented May 24, 2018 at 15:07
  • @FumbleFingers I don't get if you are joking or not. According to Instituto Cervantes, both are not connected. cvc.cervantes.es/lengua/refranero/… This Spanish idiom's origin is a proverb: El último mono es el que se ahoga. (The last monkey is the one who drowns at the end) Whose equivalent in English is: The devil take the hindmost
    – RubioRic
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 15:33
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    I don't read Spanish, but even after shoving your link through Google Translate, I don't see anything there specifically denying what looks like a distinct possibility of a connection to me. Come to that, it gives no indication of whether the Spanish "saying" actually predates the "British" one. Commented May 24, 2018 at 15:40
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    Well, I still don't know exactly what the Spanish saying means! I very much doubt it corresponds to Devil take the hindmost! though, since that's closer in meaning to Every man for himself! - both of those effectively mean You must look out for yourself, because no-one else will. Your text seems to say the Spanish version of I'm the last monkey means I'm so unimportant no-one bothers to tell me what's going on, but I don't really see how that could apply to the guy in my link above. Commented May 25, 2018 at 14:32

2 Answers 2


We have an animal metaphor as well.

He's the lowest down (or last) in the pecking order.

Another possibility:

He's just an errand boy.

Figuratively that means he's on the lowest rung of the organizational ladder.


Well, let me answer my own question because I've just found the word that I was looking for.

But first let compile all the suggestions made in comments.

whipping boy (suggested by @ColleenV)

someone or something that is blamed or punished for problems that are caused by someone or something else

always the last to know (suggested by @stangdon)


low man on the totem pole (suggested by @JeffZeitlin) Good one, Jeff. :-)

someone who has the least important position in an organization

grease monkey == engineering minions (suggested by @FumbleFingers) (wiktionary)

someone whose job is repairing car or aircraft engines

And last but not least, I've just read this one in a profile from another Stack Exchange site

code monkey

A programmer who isn't actually involved in any aspect of conceptual or design work, but simply writes code to specifications given

Being an IT professional myself this ones fits perfectly. :-)

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