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To admit defeat or plead for mercy, especially in an informal physical contest of some kind. Can also be used as an imperative phrase to demand that someone give up or admit defeat. The brothers often play fought, but it was invariably the younger of the two who had to say uncle by the end. Say "uncle," and I'll let you out of this headlock!
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
cry/say ˈuncle(American English) admit that you have been beaten or defeated: They’re determined to make the President cry uncle in the budget debate.Originally, this comes from children’s games in which the child has to say the word ‘uncle’ to admit defeat.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
tv. to admit defeat; to give up. I never say uncle. I just keep right on going.
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
say uncle, to
To concede defeat. Also put as cry uncle, it is the schoolyard equivalent of “say when you’ve had enough of this battle.” The term is an Americanism dating from about 1900, and its original meaning (if any) has been lost. It began to be used figuratively in the mid-twentieth century, as in Budd Schulberg’s What Makes Sammy Run? (1941): “Okay, I said, I’ll cry uncle.”
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer