synonyms, antonyms, definitions, examples & translations of uncle in English

English Online Dictionary. What means uncle‎? What does uncle mean?



From Middle English uncle, borrowed from Anglo-Norman uncle, from 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/eme.


  • enPR: ŭngʹkəl, IPA(key): /ˈʌŋ.kəl/, IPA(key): [ˈʌn.kʰɫ̩], [ˈʌn.kɫ̩]
  • Rhymes: -ʌŋkəl


uncle (plural uncles)

  1. The brother or brother-in-law of one’s parent.
    • 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. (euphemistic) A companion to one's (usually unmarried) mother.
  3. (figuratively) A source of advice, encouragement, or help.
  4. (Britain, informal, dated) A pawnbroker.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Thackeray to this entry?)
  5. (especially in the Southern US, parts of Britain and 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.
  6. (Southern US, slang, archaic) An older male African-American person.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson
      Plain old uncle as he [Socrates] was, with his great ears, — an immense talker.


  • (dialectal, Scotland): eam, eme


  • (with regard to gender): aunt
  • (with regard to ancestry): niece, nephew
  • (African-American): boy
  • (India): aunty


  • (brother of someone’s father): paternal uncle
  • (brother of someone’s mother): maternal uncle
  • (uncle gained by marriage): uncle-in-law

Derived terms

Related terms

  • avuncular


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



  1. A cry used to indicate surrender.


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.


  • “uncle” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2019. [1]
  • "uncle" in Merriam-Webster


  • Clune

Old French


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

  1. (Anglo-Norman) Alternative form of oncle

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This article based on an article on Wiktionary. The list of authors can be seen in the page history there. The original work has been modified. This article is distributed under the terms of this license.