Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Avuncular

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is avuncular. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Avuncular is used to describe someone or something as being “like an uncle,” especially “kind or friendly like an uncle.” 

// The shopkeeper was known for his avuncular charm, always handing out free treats to the neighborhood children.

AVUNCULAR in Context

“From East L.A. to Pasadena, from Koreatown to Riverside, and from the San Gabriel Valley to Orange County, millions of baseball fans welcomed [Vin] Scully into their homes. And that created a connection not just between individual households to the voice of the Dodgers but also among each other. He was the avuncular storyteller of Southern California, around which a unified community gathered to listen and to learn.” — Ryan Carter and Chris Haire, The Orange County (California) Register, 4 Aug. 2022

Did You Know?

Not all uncles are likeable fellows (Hamlet’s villainous Uncle Claudius, for example, isn’t exactly Mr. Nice Guy in Shakespeare’s tragedy), but avuncular reveals that, as a group, uncles are often seen as friendly and kindhearted. Avuncular comes from the Latin noun avunculus, which means “maternal uncle,” but since at least the 19th century English speakers have used avuncular to describe uncles from either side of the family, or people who are uncle-like in character or behavior. Avunculus is also an ancestor of the word uncle itself.

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