What is the origin of the phrase "Bob's your uncle"? Is it used internationally or is this just a term used in the UK?

I have often heard an extension of this phrase: "Bob's your uncle and Fanny's your aunt", can anyone shed any light on this variant?

An example of how it is used:

"Put it in the oven for 20 minutes and Bob's your uncle, your dinner will be done".

  • 3
    We use it in Australian English too.
    – Mark Hurd
    Apr 10, 2011 at 14:40
  • I first heard "Fanny's your aunt" said by Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. Never hear it before that and I would imagine that it was something thrown in by the writer.
    – user14057
    Oct 19, 2011 at 18:37
  • I have heard it in America.
    – GEdgar
    Oct 19, 2011 at 20:01
  • 1
    Susan, Fanny's your aunt did not originate from Pirates of the caribbean. I am 43 and have used the saying 'Bob's your uncle, fanny's your aunt!' since I was very little. It is a saying which has been around for over a hundred years.
    – user14237
    Oct 27, 2011 at 0:22
  • 2
    It's familiar in the US, but not commonly used.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 26, 2016 at 13:49

5 Answers 5


As far as I know this is only heard in British English. I've never heard Americans use it unless they were imitating Britons. Etymology here:

Bob's your uncle - ironic expression of something easily done - like: there you have it, as if by magic - Cassells cites AJ Langguth's work Saki of 1981 in suggesting that the expression arose after Conservative Prime Minister Robert (Bob) Cecil appointed his nephew Arthur Balfour as Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1900, which was apparently surprising and unpopular. In this sense the expression also carried a hint of sarcastic envy or resentment, rather like it's who you know not what you know that gets results, or 'easy when you know how'. Since then the meaning has become acknowledging, announcing or explaining a result or outcome that is achieved more easily than might be imagined.

  • 2
    Agreed - only in UK English.
    – The Raven
    Apr 10, 2011 at 12:32
  • Thanks @Robusto any idea about the variation of "... fanny's your aunt"?
    – sturner
    Apr 11, 2011 at 12:31
  • @sturner: My usual sources are strangely silent or evasive on this. Presumably this is becauae fanny in British English is a rather vulgar euphemism for female genitalia. I would suppose that it is either a tag added for symmetry (to complete the thought by adding a complete male/female pair to the mix) or else, if said in response to "Bob's your uncle," a counterplay intended as a mild refutation that something is easy. In short, I don't really know.
    – Robusto
    Apr 11, 2011 at 12:48
  • 1
    There are phrases involving 'Aunt Fanny' in British English though not 'Fanny's your aunt', to my knowledge. (Incidentally, there are still people who call themselves 'Fanny' in the UK, despite the connotations, much as people call themselves 'Dick'. It's not a common thing, but it's not unheard of. Context is everything.)
    – ijw
    Oct 20, 2011 at 14:54
  • 1
    @ijw: I hear "Sweet Fanny Adams" often, where Fanny Adams => FA => "fuck all" => nothing, nada, zilch.
    – Robusto
    Oct 20, 2011 at 16:38

Bob's your uncle, an expression meaning "everything will be fine", originated when Arthur Balfour was unexpectedly promoted to Chief Secretary for Ireland by the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, in 1900. Salisbury was Balfour's uncle and his first name was Robert.

Other notables named Robert have also been nominated as the origin of this phrase. See here for more.

Green's Slang Dictionary notes the gap between Balfour's appointment and the appearance of the saying and suggests that Bob in this case is a euphemism for "God".

Edit Michael Quinion has more on this (calling into question the Balfour theory) here.


Several respondents have stated that "Bob's your Uncle" is not American English. I have spent most of my life in North America and have regularly heard that phrase used in the sense of "before you can say 'Bob's your Uncle'" - indicating, as suggested, simple, easy, and taking little time. There was no suggestion that British English was being imitated or was in any way involved.

  • 5
    Where perzactly in North America was this? I've not heard it used in any sense myself.
    – jbelacqua
    Apr 11, 2011 at 5:42
  • 1
    @jgbelacqua upvote for good use of perxactly. Oct 19, 2011 at 18:54
  • 1
    @mickeyf That is not the same sense in which it is used in Britain. In the UK it means 'everything is ok'. 'I just followed the instructions and Bob's your uncle' meaning '.... everything turned out fine'. For the usage you describe, the British have a different expression 'before you can say Jack Robinson'.
    – WS2
    Oct 25, 2013 at 21:23

I have certainly heard it used in Australia. When I lived there in 1974/5 the safety of vasectomies was being questioned. I distinctly remember a tabloid newspaper headline which read 'One slip, and Bob's your Auntie', confirming to me that the Australian sense of humour owed much to the old country.


Bob is your uncle is a British English informal phrase that is used to express the ease with which a task can be achieved.
It is not used in American English.

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