avun·​cu·​lar | \ ə-ˈvəŋ-kyə-lər How to pronounce avuncular (audio) \

Definition of avuncular

1 : suggestive of an uncle especially in kindliness or geniality avuncular indulgence Jovial and avuncular, the President's chief of staff seems oblivious to the pressures that accompany what is arguably the second most powerful job in the land.— Craig Unger
2 : of or relating to an uncle Two weeks of poker had led to his writing to his uncle a distressed, but confident, request for more funds; and the avuncular foot had come down with a joyous bang.— P. G. Wodehouse

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Other Words from avuncular

avuncularity \ ə-​ˌvəŋ-​kyə-​ˈla-​rə-​tē How to pronounce avuncularity (audio) , -​ˈler-​ə-​ \ noun
avuncularly \ ə-​ˈvəŋ-​kyə-​lər-​lē How to pronounce avuncularly (audio) \ adverb

The Origin of Avuncular Is Familial

Not all uncles are likeable fellows (Hamlet's murderous Uncle Claudius, for example, isn't exactly Mr. Nice Guy in Shakespeare's tragedy), but "avuncular" reveals that, as a group, uncles are generally seen as affable and benevolent, if at times a bit patronizing. Avuncular derives from the Latin noun avunculus, which translates as "maternal uncle," but since at least the 1830s English speakers have used "avuncular" to refer to uncles from either side of the family or even to individuals who are simply uncle-like in character or behavior. And in case you were wondering, "avunculus" is also an ancestor of the word uncle itself.

Examples of avuncular in a Sentence

a man known for his avuncular charm
Recent Examples on the Web The former vice president is more comfortable with a teleprompter than speaking extemporaneously; his trademark is an avuncular one-on-one connection with voters rather than issuing a rabble-rousing call to arms in a cavernous arena. NBC News, "Patagonia shutting down operations, will continue to pay employees," 15 Mar. 2020 But throughout the evening, Biden adopted a combative tone that undercut one of his strongest assets as a candidate—his avuncular persona. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "Joe Biden Is Collapsing," 8 Feb. 2020 Yet some party grandees thought the CDU in Thuringia should grit its teeth and prop up Mr Ramelow, an avuncular, charismatic type who has run the state competently since 2014. The Economist, "The splintering states A pact with the far right in Thuringia rattles German politics," 6 Feb. 2020 The saga begins with Bell’s Eleanor Shellstrop opening her eyes outside the office of the avuncular Michael (Danson). Judy Berman, Time, "The Good Place Became the Last Great Sitcom on Network TV by Daring Its Audience to Be Better," 23 Jan. 2020 The show ticks plenty of binge-watching boxes: an eye-catching setting, nail-biting moments on the court and compulsively watchable characters — particularly Raul Mendoza, the team’s grumpy-yet-avuncular coach. Mark Athitakis, Washington Post, "‘Canyon Dreams’ is more than a book about basketball," 22 Nov. 2019 Will Tryon, the avuncular and endlessly quotable owner of Adventure Photo Tours, picks me up outside the Union Plaza Hotel at the end of Fremont Street, driving a white SUV not unlike the vehicles preferred by camo dudes. Jordan Runtagh, PEOPLE.com, "The Storming of Area 51: A Covert Journey to the Heart of America’s Worst-Kept Secret," 13 Jan. 2020 Set 40 years in the future, Avenue 5 follows Ryan Clark (Laurie), the charming and avuncular captain of the titular space vessel, which is several weeks into its two-month cruise around Saturn. Kristen Baldwin, EW.com, "HBO's amusing Avenue 5 sends Hugh Laurie into orbit: Review," 9 Jan. 2020 On Monday, following the Patriots’ in-stadium practice, Law snapped a photo of his daughter and her friend with a beaming and avuncular Belichick, who praised Law on making the Hall of Fame. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, "Ty Law was driven to prove people wrong, and that made him a no-doubt Hall of Famer," 1 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'avuncular.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of avuncular

1831, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for avuncular

Latin avunculus maternal uncle — more at uncle

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The first known use of avuncular was in 1831

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Last Updated

28 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Avuncular.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/avuncular. Accessed 1 Apr. 2020.

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More Definitions for avuncular


How to pronounce avuncular (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of avuncular

: like an uncle : kind or friendly like an uncle

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with avuncular

Britannica English: Translation of avuncular for Arabic Speakers

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