Definition of uncle in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈʌŋk(ə)l/


1The brother of one’s father or mother or the husband of one’s aunt: he visited his uncle [as name]: tell me something interesting, Uncle [as title]: Uncle Alfred
More example sentences
  • Along with the children of the dead, there were the mothers and fathers, uncles and aunts, husbands and wives; except that in one case, there was neither husband nor wife.
  • She is mourned and sadly missed by her loving husband, children, mother, uncles, aunts, cousins, and all her relatives and friends.
  • There are fathers, brothers and uncles and husbands and wives working for the company.
1.1 informal An unrelated older male friend, especially of a child.
Example sentences
  • My dad's best man was his closest friend, Rocky, who was basically an uncle to me.
  • We became uncles to the little boy and warm friends with the parents.
  • He is more like your friendly neighbourhood uncle with a passion for sports.
1.2 archaic, informal A pawnbroker.
Example sentences
  • The English term of ‘my uncle’ as a euphemism for the pawnbroker dates back to the middle of the seventeenth century.



cry (or say or yell) uncle

North American informal Surrender or admit defeat: he fought for a while, but he pretty quickly cried uncle
More example sentences
  • Repeat steps 2 and 3 until all the bad guys are either dead or cry uncle.
  • Plenty of people thought we should have just let the Confederate states go their own way in 1861 - but even they knew that if we beat General Lee on the field and occupied enough of the South, that the CSA would cry uncle and quit.
  • I will hound that poor excuse of a human being until he yells uncle or stops posting vapid, unproven horse nonsense that all of you seem to believe.

Uncle Tom Cobley (or Cobleigh) and all

British informal Used to denote a long list of people.
With allusion to the ballad Widdicombe Fair in G. Bantock's One Hundred Songs of England
Example sentences
  • Widdicombe fair is a little rural fair held in the broad-spoken heart of Dartmoor, Devon, during the course of which seven old men - ‘Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all’ - ride around on a grey mare.
  • With newspapers relying in part on whispers from security services, as well as other sources, Proetta was accused of involvement in prostitution, drugs, assault, knowing criminals and Uncle Tom Cobley and all.
  • There are few people who deliberately set themselves up for the public mauling he received at the hands of politicians, business leaders, broadcasters, journalists, Uncle Tom Cobley and all.


Middle English: from Old French oncle, from late Latin aunculus, alteration of Latin avunculus 'maternal uncle' (see avuncular).

  • Both uncle and avuncular (mid 19th century) came through Old French from Latin avunculus ‘uncle on the mother's side’. In the late 16th century people started misinterpreting an uncle as a nuncle, and uncle developed a parallel form nuncle—the opposite of the process seen in adder, apron, and umpire ( see pair). In Shakespeare's King Lear the Fool addresses his employer Lear as ‘nuncle’. The expression Uncle Tom Cobley and all comes from an old song called ‘Widdicombe Fair’, dating from around 1800. The song lists the men's names, ending with ‘Uncle Tom Cobley and all’. The independent use of the phrase itself did not develop until around a century later, in the 1930s. Uncle Sam has personified the government or people of the USA since the early 19th century. The name is probably based on the initials US. Since the 1920s Uncle Tom has been an insulting and offensive name for a black man considered to be excessively obedient or servile to whites. The original ‘Uncle Tom’ was an elderly slave who was the central figure of Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. See also dutch

Words that rhyme with uncle


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