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[uhng-kuh l] /ˈʌŋ kəl/
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.
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 forms
uncleless, adjective
uncleship, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for uncle
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And for that act of goodness, uncle Matthew had gone to his grave under stigma.

    The Foolish Lovers St. John G. Ervine
  • He took a step toward her, then looked pitifully at uncle Denny.

    Still Jim Honor Willsie Morrow
  • You wouldn't believe, would you, that your uncle is responsible for my having them?

    Elsie Marley, Honey Joslyn Gray
  • But the doctor stopped and spoke very gravely to uncle Denny.

    Still Jim Honor Willsie Morrow
  • At length Rollo called out to tell his uncle that the city was in view.

    Rollo on the Rhine Jacob Abbott
British Dictionary definitions for uncle


a brother of one's father or mother
the husband of one's aunt
a term of address sometimes used by children for a male friend of their parents
(slang) a pawnbroker
adjective avuncular
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for 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
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Slang definitions & phrases for uncle



Of a large and unspecified ordinal number: making the same speech for the umptyumpth time/ the umpty-umpth revision (fr WWI)

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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Idioms and Phrases with uncle


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