DEFINITION of 'Uncle Sam'

Uncle Sam is a personification of the U.S. federal government or of the United States in general.

BREAKING DOWN 'Uncle Sam'

A popular etymology traces the use of "Uncle Sam" to the War of 1812, when it ostensibly referred to the meat packer Samuel Wilson, whose business supplied troops in New York and New Jersey. Barrels of Wilson's meat stamped "U.S." were associated with his nickname, Uncle Sam, when in turn became a personification of the national government. 

Uncle Sam is sometimes used in the financial media to refer to the federal government, particularly in the context of income taxes.

Prior to the 19th century, the U.S. had been personified by the figure "Brother Jonathan," originally a derogatory term for Puritans during the English Civil War. Female representations of the U.S. are also common: Columbia and, since the 20th century, Lady Liberty. 

The most popular image of Uncle Sam is a World War I recruiting poster drawn by James Montgomery Flagg, which features a stern Uncle Sam pointing outward and the words, "I want YOU for U.S. Army."

Uncle Sam 1917 Army recruiting poster

Source: Wikimedia.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Uncle Block (Cryptocurrency)

    Uncle blocks are orphan blocks on the Ethereum network, and miners ...
  2. Shared-Appreciation Mortgage (SAM)

    A shared appreciation mortgage (SAM) allows purchasers to pay ...
  3. War Risk

    War risk is the probability of loss of, or damage to, cargo, ...
  4. Liberty Bond

    Libery Bonds were first issued to help finance the war effort ...
  5. Derogatory Information

    Derogatory information is information that appears on a credit ...
  6. Price War

    Price war refers to a circumstance where rival companies continuously ...
Related Articles
  1. Investing

    PepsiCo Bets Big on "Uncle Drew" Ad Character

    PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP) brought back its "Uncle Drew" character for a new ad which first aired during the National Basketball Association's All-Star Game, and the company has even bigger plans for ...
  2. Insights

    Business Model Analysis: Costco Vs. Sam's Club (WMT, TGT)

    Costco and Sam’s Club have very similar business models, but which one is faring better?
  3. Taxes

    How To Negotiate Back Taxes With The IRS

    Recently, the IRS has been more amenable to working out late tax payments. But you have to address the problem up front, and don’t keep Uncle Sam waiting on his tax money.
  4. Taxes

    What To Do When You Can’t Pay Your Taxes

    Falling behind on your tax obligations is the financial equivalent of a root canal. Take the pain away by following these tips, and get square with Uncle Sam.
  5. Retirement

    Delay in Retirement Savings Costs More in the Long Run

    The effects of compounding make it cheaper over the long term to save for retirement.
  6. Tech

    Protect Your Cryptocurrency From the Tax Man

    Investors are banking on a big return on their cryptocurrency investments, but they can lose a lot to the federal government come tax time.
  7. Personal Finance

    Planning Financially for Life's Major Moments

    Life's big moments can be unexpected and expensive. Here's how to plan financially for them.
  8. Taxes

    Opinion: Trump-Branded Taxes - Another Luxury Product

    Trump's tax plan offers less and less to most taxpayers – and more and more to the top tier.
  9. Investing

    Top 5 Companies Owned By Walmart (WMT)

    Look into some of Walmart's most important subsidiaries, and discover how they fit into the global operations of the world's biggest brick-and-mortar retailer.
RELATED FAQS
  1. Can you use your Walmart credit card at Sam's Club?

    If you have a Walmart credit card, you can use it at Sam's Club. There are also many other forms of payment that Sam's Club ... Read Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Diversification

    Diversification is the strategy of investing in a variety of securities in order to lower the risk involved with putting ...
  2. Intrinsic Value

    Intrinsic value is the perceived or calculated value of a company, including tangible and intangible factors, and may differ ...
  3. Current Assets

    Current assets is a balance sheet item that represents the value of all assets that can reasonably expected to be converted ...
  4. Volatility

    Volatility measures how much the price of a security, derivative, or index fluctuates.
  5. Money Market

    The money market is a segment of the financial market in which financial instruments with high liquidity and very short maturities ...
  6. Cost of Debt

    Cost of debt is the effective rate that a company pays on its current debt as part of its capital structure.
Trading Center