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From Middle English uncle, borrowed from Anglo-Norman uncle and Old French oncle, from Vulgar Latin *aunclum, from Latin avunculus (mother’s brother, literally little grandfather), compare avus (grandfather), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂euh₂-n-tlo (little grandfather), diminutive of *h₂éwh₂os (grandfather, adult male relative other than one’s father). Displaced native Middle English eam, eme (maternal uncle) from Old English ēam (maternal uncle), containing the same Proto-Indo-European root, and Old English fædera (paternal uncle). Compare Saterland Frisian Unkel (uncle), Dutch nonkel (uncle), German Low German Unkel (uncle), German Onkel (uncle), Danish onkel (uncle). More at eam and eame.


  • enPR: ŭngʹkəl, IPA(key): /ˈʌŋ.kəl/
  • (US), IPA(key): /ˈʌŋ.kəl/, [ˈʌŋ.kəɫ], [ˈʌŋ.kɫ̩]
  • (UK), IPA(key): /ˈʌŋ.kəl/, IPA(key): [ˈɐŋ.kəɫ], [ˈɐŋ.kɫ̩]
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ʌŋkəl


uncle (plural uncles)

  1. The brother or brother-in-law of one’s parent.
    • 1907 August, Robert W[illiam] Chambers, chapter I, in The Younger Set, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, OCLC 24962326, page 14:
      And it was while all were passionately intent upon the pleasing and snake-like progress of their uncle that a young girl in furs, ascending the stairs two at a time, peeped perfunctorily into the nursery as she passed the hallway—and halted amazed.
  2. (endearing) The male cousin of one’s parent.
  3. (euphemistic) A companion to one's (usually unmarried) mother.
  4. (figuratively) A source of advice, encouragement, or help.
  5. (Britain, informal, dated) A pawnbroker.
    • December 1843, William Makepeace Thackeray, "Grant in Paris" (review), in Fraser's Magazine
      A chain hangs out of the pocket of his velvet waistcoat , by which we may conclude that he has a watch , though we have known many gents whose watches were at their uncle's (as the fashionable term for the pawnbroker goes)
  6. (especially in the Southern US, parts of Britain and South Asia) An affectionate term for a man of an older generation than oneself, especially a friend of one's parents, by means of fictive kin.
  7. (Southern US, slang, archaic) An older African-American male.
  8. (Malaysia, informal) Any middle-aged or elderly man older than the speaker.





Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]



See also: related paternal uncle and maternal uncle for more translations.

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.



  1. A cry used to indicate surrender.

Derived terms[edit]


uncle (third-person singular simple present uncles, present participle uncling, simple past and past participle uncled)

  1. (transitive, colloquial) To address somebody by the term uncle.
  2. (intransitive, colloquial) To act like, or as, an uncle.



Old French[edit]


uncle m (oblique plural uncles, nominative singular uncles, nominative plural uncle)

  1. (Anglo-Norman) Alternative form of oncle
    • c. 1170, Wace, Le Roman de Rou:
      D'ambes parz out filz e peres,
      uncles, nevos, cosins e freres
      On both sides there were sons and fathers,
      Uncles, nephews, cousins and brothers
    • c. 1250, Marie de France, 'Chevrefeuille':
      Tristram en Wales se rala, tant que sis uncles le manda
      Tristan returned to Wales, while he waited for his uncle to call on him