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[uhng-kuh l] /ˈʌŋ kəl/
a brother of one's father or mother.
an aunt's husband.
a familiar title or term of address for any elderly man.
Slang. a pawnbroker.
(initial capital letter) Informal. Uncle Sam.
a word formerly used in communications to represent the letter U.
say / cry uncle, Informal. to concede defeat:
They ganged up on him in the schoolyard and made him say uncle.
Origin of uncle
1250-1300; Middle English < Anglo-French uncle, Old French oncle < Latin avunculus mother's brother, equivalent to av(us) mother's father + -unculus suffix extracted from diminutives of n-stems (see homunculus)
Related forms
uncleless, adjective
uncleship, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for cry uncle
Contemporary Examples
British Dictionary definitions for cry uncle


a brother of one's father or mother
the husband of one's aunt
a term of address sometimes used by children for a male friend of their parents
(slang) a pawnbroker
adjective avuncular
Word Origin
C13: from Old French oncle, from Latin avunculus; related to Latin avus grandfather
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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Word Origin and History for cry uncle



late 13c., from Old French oncle, from Latin avunculus "mother's brother," literally "little grandfather," diminutive of avus "grandfather," from PIE root *awo- "grandfather, adult male relative other than one's father" (cf. Armenian hav "grandfather," Lithuanian avynas "maternal uncle," Old Church Slavonic uji "uncle," Welsh ewythr "uncle").

Replaced Old English eam (usually maternal; paternal uncle was fædera), which represents the Germanic form of the root (cf. Dutch oom, Old High German oheim "maternal uncle," German Ohm "uncle").

Also from French are German, Danish, Swedish onkel. First record of Dutch uncle (and his blunt, stern, benevolent advice) is from 1838; Welsh uncle (1747) was the first cousin of one's parent. To say uncle as a sign of submission in a fight is North American, attested from 1909, of uncertain signification.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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cry uncle in Culture

say (cry) uncle definition

To admit defeat, to surrender: “Wilbur held his little brother in a headlock until he had to cry uncle.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for cry uncle

cry uncle

verb phrase

To admit defeat and give up: don't cry uncle after one round (1918+)



  1. A pawnbroker (1756+)
  2. A receiver of stolen goods; fence (1924+ Underworld)
  3. A federal narcotics agent; narc (1920+ Underworld & narcotics)

Related Terms

say uncle

[last sense fr Uncle Sam]

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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Idioms and Phrases with cry uncle

cry uncle

Also,say uncle. Concede defeat, as in The Serbs want the Bosnians to cry uncle, or If you say uncle right now, I'll let you go first in the next game. This phrase originated about 1900 as an imperative among school-children who would say, “Cry uncle when you've had enough (of a beating).” By the mid-1900s it was being used figuratively, as in the examples.


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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