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Uncle Sam

a personification of the government or people of the U.S.: represented as a tall, lean man with white chin whiskers, wearing a blue tailcoat, red-and-white-striped trousers, and a top hat with a band of stars.
Origin of Uncle Sam
1805-15, Americanism; extension of the initials U.S. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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British Dictionary definitions for uncle-sam

Uncle Sam

a personification of the government of the United States
Word Origin
C19: apparently a humorous interpretation of the letters stamped on army supply boxes during the War of 1812: US
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-sam

Uncle Sam


symbol of the United States of America, 1813, coined during the war with Britain as a contrast to John Bull, and no doubt suggested by the initials U.S. "[L]ater statements connecting it with different government officials of the name of Samuel appear to be unfounded" [OED]. The common figure of Uncle Sam began to appear in political cartoons c.1850. Only gradually superseded earlier Brother Jonathan (1776), largely through the popularization of the figure by cartoonist Thomas Nast. British in World War I sometimes called U.S. soldiers Sammies.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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uncle-sam in Culture

Uncle Sam definition

A figure who stands for the government of the United States and for the United States itself. Uncle Sam — whose initials are the abbreviation of United States — is portrayed as an old man with a gray goatee who sports a top hat and Stars and Stripes clothing. During World War I and World War II, posters of Uncle Sam exhorted young men to join the armed forces. (Compare John Bull.)

The American Heritage® 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 uncle-sam



  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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