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Uncle Tom

noun, Disparaging and Offensive.
a black man considered by other blacks to be subservient to or to curry favor with whites.
a person of any race who exhibits overly deferential behavior, especially a female.
Compare Aunt Jemima.
Origin of Uncle Tom
1920-25, Americanism; so called after the leading character in Uncle Tom's Cabin
Related forms
Uncle Tomish, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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British Dictionary definitions for uncle-tom

Uncle Tom

(informal, derogatory) a Black person whose behaviour towards White people is regarded as obsequious and servile
Derived Forms
Uncle Tomism, noun
Word Origin
C20: after the slave who is the main character of H.B. Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852)
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-tom

Uncle Tom


"servile black man," 1922, somewhat inaccurately in reference to the humble, pious, but strong-willed main character in Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" (1852). The image implied in the insult perhaps is more traceable to the late 19c. minstel show versions of the story, which reached a far wider audience than the book.

I don't recall anyone in the 1920s using the term 'Uncle Tom' as an epithet. But what's amazing is how fast it caught on (in the 1930s). Black scholars picked up (the term) and just started throwing it at each other. [Ernest Allen, quoted in Hamilton, Kendra, "The Strange Career of Uncle Tom," Black Issues in Higher Education, June 2002]
As a verb, attested from 1937.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for uncle-tom

Uncle Dudley

Related Terms

your uncle dudley

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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