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aunt

[ant, ahnt]
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noun
  1. the sister of one's father or mother.
  2. the wife of one's uncle.
  3. Chiefly New England and South Midland U.S.. (used as a term of respectful address to an older woman who is not related to the speaker).
  4. Slang. an aging male homosexual.
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Origin of aunt

1250–1300; Middle English aunte < Anglo-French, for Old French ante < Latin amita father's sister, old feminine past participle of amāre to love, i.e., beloved
Related formsaunt·like, adjective
Can be confusedant aunt

Pronunciation note

The usual vowel of aunt in the United States is the [a] /æ/ of rant except in New England and eastern Virginia, where it is commonly the “New England broad a, ” a vowel similar to French [a] /a/ and having a quality between the [a] /æ/ of hat and the [ah] /ɑ/ of car. The vowel [ah] /ɑ/ itself is also used. In New England and eastern Virginia [ah] /ɑ/ or the [a] /a/ -like sound occur in aunt in the speech of all social groups, even where a “broad a ” is not used in words like dance and laugh. Elsewhere, the “broader” a is chiefly an educated pronunciation, fostered by the schools with only partial success (“Your relative isn't an insect, is she?”), and is sometimes regarded as an affectation. Aunt with the vowel of paint is chiefly South Midland United States and is limited to folk speech.
The [a] /æ/ pronunciation of aunt was brought to America before British English developed the [ah] /ɑ/ in such words as aunt, dance, and laugh. In American English, [ah] /ɑ/ is most common in the areas that maintained the closest cultural ties with England after the [ah] /ɑ/ pronunciation developed there in these words.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for aunt

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • I shall be staying with Aunt Cornelia a few days after to-morrow.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • Tell Aunt Cornelia, please, that I shall be along in just a moment.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • It's funny—that's exactly what I told Aunt Cornelia about that—that man.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • His aunt, the Duchess of Savoy, is a merry dame, and a wise!

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

  • Aunt Jane approached a degree nearer the equator, and said, gently, "I fear I do."

    Malbone

    Thomas Wentworth Higginson


British Dictionary definitions for aunt

aunt

noun (often capital, esp as a term of address)
  1. a sister of one's father or mother
  2. the wife of one's uncle
  3. a term of address used by children for any woman, esp for a friend of the parents
  4. my aunt! or my sainted aunt! an exclamation of surprise or amazement
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Word Origin

C13: from Old French ante, from Latin amita a father's sister
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

Word Origin and History for aunt

n.

c.1300, from Anglo-French aunte, Old French ante (Modern French tante, from a 13c. variant), from Latin amita "paternal aunt" diminutive of *amma a baby-talk word for "mother" (cf. Greek amma "mother," Old Norse amma "grandmother," Middle Irish ammait "old hag," Hebrew em, Arabic umm "mother").

Extended senses include "an old woman, a gossip" (1580s); "a procuress" (1670s); and "any benevolent woman," in American English, where auntie was recorded since c.1790 as "a term often used in accosting elderly women." The French word also has become the word for "aunt" in Dutch, German (Tante), and Danish. Swedish has retained the original Germanic (and Indo-European) custom of distinguishing aunts by separate terms derived from "father's sister" (faster) and "mother's sister" (moster). The Old English equivalents were faðu and modrige. In Latin, too, the formal word for "aunt on mother's side" was matertera. Some languages have a separate term for aunts-in-law as opposed to blood relations.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper