Mobile Banner

cry uncle

to give up a fight


cry uncle = sich für besiegt erklären, sich geschlagen geben; aufgeben



“General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner and his fellow executives at Ford and Chrysler did not give up on the SUV until $4-per-gallon gas made them CRY UNCLE.”

The Inquirer

Did you

cry uncle

- surrender or admit defeat

- to admit that you have been defeated

Oxford Languages / Macmillan Dictionary


“Cry uncle” originated about 1900 among school-children. It was used often during schoolyard or playground fights when one child gained the advantage and would tell the other one to “Cry uncle, say uncle or shout uncle”, meaning that they should give up or beg for mercy.

Due to heavy Irish immigration in eastern Canada and New England in the 19th century, it is could be an anglicization of the Irish ‘anacal’, meaning deliverance or quarter.

Today, the phrase is used less often as a demand for someone to give up and more often just a way to indicate that someone is giving up or has already given up.


- to submit to the authority of an enemy or opponent:

abdicate, accede (to), accept/admit defeat, acquiesce, back down, back off, back out, backpedal, bail out, be beaten (bested/conquered by), be defeated, humbled (by), bend the knee, be outdistanced (overcome, overthrown, overwhelmed, servile, smitten by, submissive, taken by, taken to cleaners, the loser, trounced, vanquished, worsted), blink, bow (out to), buckle under, call it a day (quits), capitulate, cave in, chicken out, chuck it in, climb down, come a cropper (off second-best, to grief, to terms), concede defeat, crumble, cry quits, CRY UNCLE, cut out, eat crow (dirt, humble pie), fal(l in line, victim to), fold (up), give ground (in, in to, oneself up), give up the struggle, give way (to), give yourself up, go along with, go down, go under, grant, have no fight left, hoist the white flag, humble oneself,  knuckle under, kowtow, lay down arms, let go, meet one’s Waterloo, pack it in, pass into enemy hands, play ball, pull out, put one’s tail between one’s legs, put up white flag, raise the white flag, relinquish, resign, resign oneself to, roll over, roll over and play dead, say uncle, show the white flag, submit to, succumb to, suffer defeat, surrender to, take a beating, take a licking, throw in the sponge (the towel), throw in your hand, throw up one’s hands (the sponge), toss it in, wave the white flag

SMUGGLE OWAD into an English conversation, say something like:

“It’s better to CRY UNCLE if a sales campaign has failed, than to invest more money in it.”

HERZLICHEN DANK to all readers helping me keep OWAD alive with single or monthly donations at:


Paul Smith, IBAN: DE75 7316 0000 0002 5477 40

More Word Quizzes: