- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Averted for once in a family sitcom, as Stan is just as attractive as Francine.
- Uncertain Doom: Played with when Steve and his friends parody the classic Bolivian Army Ending, only to find that they can't take any of their opponents out with them.
- Un-Cancelled: American Dad! is ending its run on FOX due to low ratings, inconsistent scheduling, and plans to revamp the Sunday night line-up (as of now, American Dad! airs at 7:30pm, due to FOX airing the hour-long Cosmos documentary series). However, TBS just picked up the show and will be airing new episodes in fall of 2014, making this the second Seth MacFarlane show to get canceled and revived, and the first one to get canceled by FOX and revived on another network (Family Guy does air in reruns on cable, but it's still on FOX).
- Un-evil Laugh: Francine tries to do an Evil Laugh in "Spelling Bee My Baby". Key word being "tries".
- The Unfair Sex: The episode Stan Time is a perfect example of this trope. Throughout the episode Stan literally spends every waking hour waiting on his family hand and foot. All he asks for is time to read a book. When they refuse to give it to him he takes it in the form of pills that keeps its users awake, but well-rested. When Francine finds out about them she decided to take them as well. As mentioned Stan spends every waking moment waiting own his family. So when he doesn’t want to give up the time he set aside for himself Francine decides to keep taking the pills and eventually abandons Stan and her family. In the end it is Stan and no one else who has to learn not to take his loved ones for granted.
- Punctuated by Francine having almost the exact same Aesop in a later episode, however while Francine learns to be appreciative of what she has, she is granted a fair compromise and some time to herself, something Stan is guilt tripped into thinking is hurtful and selfish in his case.
- Much like Seth's other shows, this actually happens a whole lot, with Francine winning 99% of the arguments her and Stan have, regardless of the situation. Perhaps the most ludicrous case of this is in "The Kidney Stays In The Picture", where Francine is revealed to have had an affair just a day before their marriage. Stan is still the bad guy, to the point the affair is depicted as being for the best.
- In "Bollocks To Stan", Hayley spends the whole episode switching between Bollock and Jeff, and dumping them in the most callous manner (as well as endangering Stan's career and the family's upbringing in the process). The Aesop is about Stan not treating her with enough respect.
- The Unintelligible: Inverted with Toshi. He only speaks Japanese, but it's subtitled, so the audience can understand him but none of the characters can. This is lampshaded a few times, such as when Toshi mentions that he is haunted by the disembodied spirit of a 12th century samurai. When the spirit talks to him in Japanese, Toshi can't understand it properly.
- He can also speak Russian and in one episode Francine ends a phone conversation with him with "Bueno gracias." Though the last may just be another joke about everyone perpetually misunderstanding him.
- He actually speaks English at one point, after Snot yells at him to learn the language: "EAT... MY... BOWLS!"
- Unreliable Narrator: Done in "The American Dad After-School Special". Throughout the episode, Stan is becoming ludicrously overweight despite all his exercise, apparently because his family is sabotaging him (injecting lard into his celery) to teach him a lesson about his hatred of fat people. Just before the commercial break, we see that Stan is in fact ludicrously underweight, having developed anorexia, his family was trying to keep him from starving himself to death, and his trainer, Zack, doesn't exist.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Hayley credits this as the reason behind Stan and Roger's hostility in one episode, telling them to just fuck already and get over it. At the end of the episode, the two get arrested for public indecencynote and, as they're being carted off, praise one anothers' acting talent; Hayley smugly tells Francine that she was right that their hostility was just sexual tension.
- Unstoppable Rage: At least two separate episodes show Hayley as being capable of this. One happens when she gets dumped. The other takes place when she becomes hormonal as a result of going through puberty. "What do you mean 'the rest of my life'?"
Klaus: This man is crazy!Stan: Would a crazy man drink you? *begins drinking from Klaus' bowl*
- Francine is also capable of this, two prominent examples being when she screams at Stan for ruining her plan to break George Clooney's heart, and when after discovering that Stan tricked her into believing she committed murder, her response to him is angry to the point of psychotic.
- Even the both of them were terrified around Stan after he went violently paranoid about the neighborhood criticizing him.
- Ultimate Gamer 386: Steve Smith
- Ultimate Job Security: Steve's teacher in Toy Whorey:Teacher: [pointing to "Tenure" written on board] And that's why it's virtually impossible for me to get fired, no matter what I do. [flying-kicks a student in the face]
- The Untwist: Played for Laughs. In the end of the episode "Roy Rogers MacFreely", the titular Roy Rogers turns out to be...Roger.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Stan Smith, though he is shaping up to be a fairly sympathetic character. True, he retains some Jerkass qualities, but enough episodes end with *him* delivering the Aesop or at least on the moral high ground for him to go beyond just being an Expy of Peter Griffin or, worse — Jerkass Homer.
- Roger seems to be filling this role in more recent seasons.
- Francine fills this role in later seasons.
- Unusual Euphemism: In "Iced, Iced Babies" Stan says that when Francine goes through menopause her "uterus will fall like Saigon, and Steve was the last chopper out."
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight and Not Distracted by the Sexy: The B-Plot for "Stan Time" features Roger and Steve trying to write a porn film but unable to come up with a script, while completely ignoring the sexual antics of two young blonde waitresses.
- More recent episodes have him sidetracked in his quest for boob, though - even to the point where he'll ignore it altogether.
- Nobody seems to particularly care that Klaus and Reginald can talk.
- In the fifth Christmas special, "Season's Beatings", Steve is possessed by the Anti-Christ early on, causing his eyes to turn red, his head to face the wrong way, and giving him the ability to climb on walls. The only reaction this gets from anyone is Francine telling him to "stop babbling at your sister in Aramaic. It's a dead language."
- Up to Eleven: Played with when Hayley convinces Stan to "Stick it to The Man".Stan: We're gonna stick it to the man.
Stan: We're gonna stick it to the man!
Hayley: What're we gonna do?!
Stan: We're gonna stick it to the man!!!
Hayley: 10 percent more!!
Stan: WE'RE GONNA FUCK UP SOME SHIT!!!
Hayley: 90 percent less.
Stan: We'll stick it to the man.
- Very Special Episode: Subverted. Some episodes give the appearance of this before descending into chaos, as seen in Season Two's The American Dad After School Special, where Stan forbids Steve to date Debbie because she's overweight, then Stan realizes that he's fat too and becomes anorexic and "A Jones for a Smith" where Stan becomes a crack addict and eventually goes to rehab, but his son, Steve, is still pissed at him for ruining his chances with sleeping with a hot high school girl whose father was willing to let Steve be her first, and Hayley's pleas to be let into rehab for her marijuana smoking go unheeded.
- Parodied (but played out very realistically) with "A.T.: The Abusive Terrestrial," which shows Roger's new friendship with a nine-year-old boy play out like someone being in an abusive romantic relationship.
- Villain Protagonist: Zig-zags. More than a few episodes are centered around stopping Stan from doing something terrible, and it's revealed fairly often that, while he does a lot of the things he does because he genuinely believes that everything he does is justified by the situation, he's done more than a few things that are just downright horrible, like the time he tried to get a guy to believe in god and ultimately ended up ruining that man's life and killing his family, to the point that the man had a near death experience, got to meet god long enough to be sent to hell, and came back as a worshipper of Satan. Stan's involvement in this trope can be best summed up with one scene:Stan: I'm not a monster... (a human skull falls out of the furnace, which Stan quickly kicks back in)
- One of the most extreme examples of this came from a Christmas Episode, where Stan accidentally killed himself, went to heaven, and found out that his family would die because of his actions. In the scenes that follow, Stan ends up fighting his way to confront God and holds him at gunpoint, demanding that he changes what is going to happen. God calls Stan out as a serious control freak, states that the very behavior that has brought him to this point is what has caused all of his problems and Stan isn't even slightly sorry for his obviously evil actions, and when Stan tries to argue, God says that Stan is holding a gun to God's head, demanding that he do as Stan wants. Even God can't come up with a better metaphor than that. Que Stan's My God, What Have I Done??
- While Stan may have repetant or redeeming moments, Roger is as close to this trope as a sitcom character can get, and only gets worse with each season. A massive amount of humor is based around Roger's Lack of Empathy and life destroying (and occasionally life taking) schemes.
- Vocal Evolution: Three characters come to mind when re-watching the pilot episode: Steve, Stan, and Klaus. All three had prominently deeper voices. Steve and Klaus's voices slowly increased in pitch, while Stan's became more refined in quality.
- Roger's Paul Lynde basis was also more noticeable in early episodes.
- There's also the background characters. For the first several episodes, most female background characters just sounded exactly like Hayley. Very confusing, especially if you're hearing it and not seeing it.
- Volleying Insults: We get this little exchange between Stan and Hayley in "Stannie Get Your Gun":Hayley: You're such a fascist!
Hayley: Gun toting maniac!
- A few moments later, when they continue exchanging:
Hayley: I'm the Mexican Bigfoot?
Stan: You heard her, she admitted it!
- Vomit Shots: One of the most recurring events in the series is for one of the characters (usually Stan or Roger) to vomit violently due to various reasons. It can be discreet, indiscreet, or outright over the top.
- A couple people throwing up is all it takes to start a chain reaction of people throwing up in Mexico, where apparently they collect it and resell it as horchata.
- Waxing Lyrical: "Anything you can do I can do better" claims Stan, "No you can't" rebutts Roger. According to Francine this happens often.
- We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties: Twice in "Bar Mitzvah Hustle" - first, Steve falls out of Roger's attic while pitching his plan for revenge. It immediately cuts to a Technical Difficulties screen, then replays the scene with a badly injured Steve. Later, Stan and Francine come in to retell their misadventures on the way to a pitch meeting. Stan then points out Plot Hole after Plot Hole in his story, then gives it the Screw This, I'm Outta Here! into another Technical Difficulties screen. Both times, it's made to look like the cartoon is being shot on a sound stage.
- We Want Our Jerk Back: In Frannie 911, Roger is forced to become nice, but when the family discovers that being nice is actually harming his health, they beg him to go back to being a jerk.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Steve. He tries to get his dad to respect him multiple times... the results are mixed.Steve: Are we having a father/son moment?Stan: *hits Steve in the crotch* We were, you ruined it by mentioning it.
- Stan's relationship with his own father has elements of this as well.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: In "Of Ice And Men", Svetlana, the Russian mail-order bride, marries Toshi after he steals her away from Snot. Nothing else happened to her. She's never seen again. This is lampshaded in a later episode when the topic of girls comes up and Toshi says "Didn't I used to have a wife?"
- The Golden Turd Saga. Each time, someone would come across it and they become entranced by it, even doing drastic things to keep it. The last one featured the policeman's wife about to poison her husband when he suggested getting rid of it. The writers intended to show what happened next in a later episode but they weren't able to due to time constraints on episodes(and the writers admitted that they couldn't think of a satisfying way to continue the story). It's been several seasons since the last one, so the viewers are just left wondering what happened.
- It turns out that it did get a continuation in "Blagsnrast, A Love Story." The wife is seen being executed, and her son, someone running for attorney general, finds the turd underneath some floorboards. A little girl gets hit by a car outside, and the next shot is him sitting in what is presumably his office/basement. He makes a phone call and when a suspicious man answers, it turns out that the guy is going to be president.
- If one accepts that everything after the Apocalypse episode exists in Stan's Heaven then it was seen being used as the fuel for Roger's ship to get Stan and Jesus to the final battle with the Anti-Christ and to rescue Francine before Stan's death and gaining his heavenly reward.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Everyone calls everyone else out on a pretty regular basis. Especially when it's one character's turn to be more heroic than usual.
- Whole Plot Reference: Done very sparingly, and (usually) effectively; the show still manages to put its own unique twist on things even when it's largely basing its plot on an existing story. An excellent example is Irregarding Steve, which not only features Steve and Roger in a take-off on Midnight Cowboy, but has a running B-story which recreates What's Eating Gilbert Grape with squirrels.
- The episode "Hot Water" is Little Shop of Horrors with a soul/R&B theme, Cee Lo Green, and a murderous hot tub.
- Lampshaded in "Return of the Bling" when Roger bites Stan's finger off when the plot has already been resolved and they're literally ten seconds away from the credits, the only reason being "It was in the movie."
- Besides the addition of a school election and revenge plot, the episode Escape From Pearl Bailey High is a near perfect homage to the cult 1979 movie The Warriors, complete with Principle Lewis taking place of the DJ informant.
- Wham Line: "Now picture that boy [that was cut from the team by his dad] is you." -Steve
- What Does She See in Him?: Played with for Stan and Francine. More evident in early episodes where Stan is more malevolent and chauvinistic, often leading Francine to suffer or be belittled in his antics (the smitten Klaus asked this multiple times and at one point was close to wooing her in a new human body). In later episodes however Stan becomes slightly more sympathetic while more emphasis is put on Francine's own unpleasant tendencies the former has to endure.
- One early episode has this driving the main plot, with Francine's memories reverting to the state she was in during college, and Stan tries to win her back over, but she's put off by his being a "narc" as well as his violent attitude and rudeness.
- What Measure Is a Mook?: In Con Heir, Stan beats up an elderly guard he believes to be a terrorist, and the narrative explores this trope to make it worse:[a voiceover of a lighthearted flashback plays as Stand pummels the elderly man]
Lady: Dad, you're 76, just retire! Mark and I would love for you to live with us!
Guard: Well, I can't leave the museum, Sheila, they need me!
Lady: But these are your golden years! You should be enjoying life with your family!
Guard: (laughs) I never stopped enjoying it Sheila... In a way, those paintings are my family...
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Early in The Magnificent Steven, Steve expresses an irrational fear of moths. Sure enough, later in the episode, he has to face a swarm of moths as part of the story. (Lampshaded by him saying, "Why did it have to be moths?")
- Even better is Stan's bizarre, occasionally referenced aversion to seagulls. He even has nightmares about them ("Seagulls!? Francine - this time they could drive!")
- Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: Officer Turlington, IRS/Spa Inspector/ Officer of Internal Affairs, who usually shows up to give the characters a really good, in-universe Mind Screw. As it turns out, he's just having a hell of a difficult time with his personal life as do the Smiths with their criminal activities, as demonstrated in "Meter Made", "Live and Let Fry", and "Chimdale".
- Why Don't You Marry It?: Stan snaps this about Best Buy when a guy talks about the the pay benefits they gave.
- Francine says this when Stan abandons her for Fussy the puppy.
- Wig, Dress, Accent: Roger makes extensive use of these and could arguably fit into Paper-Thin Disguise territory from time to time. The show has even pointed it out by having him choose a disguise from an automatic rotating wardrobe full of outfits, and again in The One That Got Away when Roger changes into about a dozen of his characters in half a minute.
- Wife Husbandry:Subverted, Steve and Snot rase two clone babies for prom to lose their virginity, but by the time Glitter (Steve's clone daughter) and Honey (Snot's clone daughter) are fully grown, both Steve and Snot developed parental feelings for their clones and decide not to follow through on the sex, though that did not stop Snot from trying to have sex with Glitter.
- A Wizard Did It: Roger has fooled Steve with these several times - once when Steve believed he was an actual Potter-esque wizard. Steve sometimes gets his revenge.
- Women Are Wiser: For the most part. While Francine and Hayley are still incredibly flawed human beings, the male Smiths are usually depicted as far more dysfunctional and problematic, with the girls usually displaying more clarity and intelligence (or at the very least getting thrown An Aesop far less often). Most evident in "Rapture's Delight", while Stan's selfishness costs him his rapture, Francine is considered pure enough to become Jesus Christ's girlfriend.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Roger. He is so evil because his species releases a bile that kills them if they don't "let their evilness out". Made worse when it is revealed the reason he is trapped on Earth is that the others of his species wanted to get rid of him. In addition, there are moments where he really seems to care about his adoptive family. It is implied that Roger only acts that way because he was made to be evil, and not by choice.
- Would Hurt a Child: Roger would kill a child (an infant, actually). For accidentally breaking a leg off of one of his collection of crystal spiders.
- Yandere: Hayley. If she's the one who breaks up with her boyfriend, no big thing. If she gets dumped, she will go berserk. It's gotten to a point where the police have issued Stan an ultimatum: If Hayley gets dumped and goes nuts one more time, she's going to prison.
- In the episode Love, American Dad Style, Roger becomes one to Hayley, shooting her in the chest because he's "nervous", tying her to a bed to "get closer", and then removing Jeff's skin so he can wear it and be with Hayley.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: If there's even the slightest hint that Steve may get the girl, something always happens to ruin it. Though he does finally get together with Akiko in "Spelling Bee My baby"
- Year Inside, Hour Outside: In The One That Got Away, Klaus is zapped into another dimension at one point. When he returns moments later, he claims to have been gone 60 years (and become the king of whatever place it was that he was visiting).
- You Do NOT Want To Know: The website of Roger's persona in "Shallow Vows" allegedly has some awful images on it:Roger: The second rule you can read on my website. You have to be 18 to log on. I have some sexy barnyard stuff on there that is not for everyone, I could get in a lot of trouble. If you do decide to check it out you're gonna have to clear your history right away- you may need to un-install your browser. I'm telling you, scrub that thing clean. If you think you're being too cautious you're not. They will take us both to jail.
- Your Favorite: For Stan and Francine - Mr. Pibb.
Steve: Peanut Butter! Of course! That's my favorite thing in the world! If it weren't for the frozen moon of Saturn - Io, it would be my most favorite thing in the UNIVERSE!
- For Steve - Peanut Butter.
- Your Mom: In the episode Bully to Steve, Stan bullies Steve to make him tougher. He makes several Your Mom comments (worded as "Yeah, that's what your mom said last night!") towards him, which are likely true.
- In Great Space Roaster, Roger forces the members of the family to insult each other. Steve tells this to Francine: "Mom, you are not smart. I don't tell "yo mama's so dumb" jokes. I tell "my mama's so dumb" jokes. Example: my mama's so dumb, I don't tell "yo mama's so dumb" jokes. I tell "my mama's so dumb" jokes."