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fa·​nat·​ic fə-ˈna-tik How to pronounce fanatic (audio)
plural fanatics
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
: 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


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variants or fanatical
: marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion
they're fanatic about politics
a fanatic attention to details
fanatically adverb
fanaticalness noun

Did you know?

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.

Example Sentences

Adjective because of her fanatical views, her friends know better than to try to discuss the issues with her
Recent Examples on the Web
Brazilians are fanatic about their coffee—and sweet treat. Leigh Mcmullan Abramson, Town & Country, 21 June 2014 Oh, come on, my Minnesota soccer-fanatic friends are thinking. Joe Bissen, Twin Cities, 10 Mar. 2017 Ms. Clark told him she was not permitted to contact the families directly, but the history of fanatic violence did provide an unwelcome opportunity to declare her sorrow publicly. Jim Dwyer, New York Times, 3 Jan. 2017 Up until now, the only real thing IKEA and Trader Joe's had in common was their equally fanatic, cult-like followings. Bridget Mallon, ELLE Decor, 6 Nov. 2015 And there is original Law and Order all over the box these days, including the old ones with Ben Stone, the fanatic Franciscan of the Manhattan DA's office. Charles P. Pierce, Esquire, 5 May 2017

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.

Word History



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

First Known Use


1644, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1550, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of fanatic was in 1550

Dictionary Entries Near fanatic

Cite this Entry

“Fanatic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition



fa·​nat·​ic fə-ˈnat-ik How to pronounce fanatic (audio)
variants or fanatical
: overly enthusiastic or devoted
fanatic noun
fanatically adverb

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