noun fa·nat·ic \ fə-ˈna-tik \
plural fanatics
1 disapproving : a person exhibiting excessive enthusiasm and intense uncritical devotion toward some controversial matter (as in religion or politics)
  • a religious fanatic [=extremist]
  • The fanatics are convinced they are serving a righteous cause and that all means are justified …
  • —Flora Lewis
2 : a person who is extremely enthusiastic about and devoted to some interest or activity
  • a boating/sports/racing fanatic
  • She's a real fanatic when it comes to working out.
  • Since the U.S. economy began to sputter in 2008, shoppers have become coupon fanatics and lovers of buy-one-get-one-free deals …
  • —Janet K. Keeler

The Fanatical Origin of fan

There are a good number of etymological myths in the English language, stories about the origins of words (such as the widespread notion that posh originated as an acronym for “port out, starboard home”) which are, to put it kindly, inaccurate. But this does not mean that every vivid account of linguistic origin is fictitious. Many words, such as fan, do have colorful backstories.

Fan is generally–and very likely correctly–believed to be a shortened form of fanatic. The origin of fanatic (which can be traced back to the Latin word fanum, meaning “sanctuary, temple”) is less often commented on. In English, fan made an early appearance in the late 17th century only to disappear for two centuries, resurfacing in the late 19th century. In this later period of use, it often referred to the devoted observers of, or participants in, a sport. An 1885 article from The Kansas City Times, for example, contains the line “The base ball ‘fans’ of the ploice [sic] force and fire department engage in a ball game.”

Did You Know?

The Latin adjective fanaticus, a derivative of the noun fanum, meaning “temple,” originally meant “of or relating to a temple.” It was later used to refer to pious individuals who were thought to have been inspired by a god or goddess. In time, the sense “frantic, frenzied, mad” arose because it was thought that persons behaving in such a manner were possessed by a deity. This was the first meaning of the English word fanatic. This sense is now obsolete, but it led to the meaning “excessively enthusiastic, especially about religious matters.” The word later became less specific, meaning simply “excessively enthusiastic or unreasonable.” The noun fan, meaning “enthusiast,” is probably a shortening of fanatic.

First Known Use of fanatic


in the meaning defined at sense 1

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adjective \ fə-ˈna-ti-kəl \
variants: or fanatical
: marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion
  • they're fanatic about politics
  • a fanatic attention to details


play \fə-ˈna-ti-k(ə-)lē\ adverb


play \fə-ˈna-ti-kəl-nəs\ noun

Examples of fanatic in a Sentence

  1. because of her fanatical views, her friends know better than to discuss religion with her

Recent Examples of fanatic from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'fanatic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of fanatic

Latin fanaticus inspired by a deity, frenzied, from fanum temple — more at feast

FANATIC Defined for Kids



adjective fa·nat·ic \ fə-ˈna-tik \
: very or overly enthusiastic or devoted
  • a fanatic supporter

History for fanatic

In Latin the adjective fanaticus, a derivative of fanum, “temple,” meant literally “of a temple,” though the more common sense was “inspired by a god” or “frenzied.” The word was borrowed into English as fanatic in the 1500s with this sense. In the following century the word was applied to members of certain Protestant groups who argued for their beliefs—in the view of most people—with excessive enthusiasm, acting as if they were divinely inspired. Eventually, fanatic was applied to anyone who showed extreme devotion to a cause.



: a very enthusiastic supporter or admirer

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