cry uncle


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.

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)

uncleless, adjective
uncleship, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
uncle (ˈʌŋkəl)
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: avuncular
[C13: from Old French oncle, from Latin avunculus; related to Latin avus grandfather]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

late 13c., from O.Fr. oncle, from L. avunculus "mother's brother," lit. "little grandfather," dim. of avus "grandfather," from PIE root *awo- "grandfather, adult male relative other than one's father" (cf. Arm. hav "grandfather," Lith. avynas "maternal uncle," O.C.S. uji "uncle," Welsh ewythr "uncle").
Replaced O.E. eam (usually maternal; paternal uncle was fædera), which represents the Gmc. form of the root (cf. Du. oom, O.H.G. oheim "maternal uncle," Ger. Ohm "uncle"). Also from French are Ger., Dan., Swed. 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 N.Amer., attested from 1918, of uncertain signification.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

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® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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