[uhng-kuh l]
See more synonyms for uncle on Thesaurus.com
  1. a brother of one's father or mother.
  2. an aunt's husband.
  3. a familiar title or term of address for any elderly man.
  4. Slang. a pawnbroker.
  5. (initial capital letter) Informal. Uncle Sam.
  6. a word formerly used in communications to represent the letter U.
  1. 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 formsun·cle·less, adjectiveun·cle·ship, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for cry uncle

break, surrender

British Dictionary definitions for cry uncle


  1. a brother of one's father or mother
  2. the husband of one's aunt
  3. a term of address sometimes used by children for a male friend of their parents
  4. slang a pawnbroker
Related formsRelated adjective: avuncular

Word Origin for uncle

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

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

cry uncle in Culture

say (cry) uncle

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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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.


see cry uncle; Dutch uncle.

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