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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 uncle
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • In the simpler phrasing of uncle Peter Bines, he will "cut loose."

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • But uncle Peter had already put in some hard winters, and was not wanting in fortitude.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • uncle Peter stood in a flood of light at the door of his room.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • He was busy almost half an hour, while uncle Peter smoked in silence.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • Why, of course not, uncle Peter; only I had to look around some at first,—for a year or so.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
British Dictionary definitions for 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 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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Slang definitions & phrases for uncle



  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 uncle


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