\ ˈwän How to pronounce wan (audio) \
wanner; wannest

Definition of wan

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : suggestive of poor health : sickly, pallid
b : lacking vitality : feeble
2 : dim, faint
3 : languid a wan smile


wanned; wanning

Definition of wan (Entry 2 of 3)

intransitive verb

: to grow or become pale or sickly


\ ˈwan How to pronounce WAN (audio) \

Definition of WAN (Entry 3 of 3)

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Other Words from wan


wanly adverb
wanness \ ˈwän-​nəs How to pronounce wanness (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for wan

Synonyms: Adjective

ashen, ashy, blanched, cadaverous, doughy, livid, lurid, mealy, pale, paled, pallid, pasty, peaked

Antonyms: Adjective

blooming, florid, flush, full-blooded, glowing, red, rosy, rubicund, ruddy, sanguine

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Examples of wan in a Sentence


She gave a wan laugh. she looks a little wan after all that tiring work

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Minor, inconsequential, wan, harshly acidic are among the ways it is usually described — fit only as the base wine for a kir, an aperitif made by blending it with crème de cassis. Eric Asimov, New York Times, "The Aligoté Defense Rests," 28 June 2018 In the Edwardian era, his wan faces set in sumptuous dreamscapes came to seem as lifeless as Queen Victoria herself. J.s. Marcus, WSJ, "In London, Medieval Legends Through Modern Eyes," 19 Oct. 2018 Season the contents of the pan with more salt and pepper to taste — the broth should be bright with acid and rich from chicken stock, and with as much salt and pepper needed to not taste wan or washed-out. 10. Gabrielle Hamilton, House Beautiful, "Gabrielle Hamilton's Braised Chicken Legs with Shallots and Vinegar," 22 Feb. 2013 The churros are extra crispy, stopping just short of being overdone; however, the accompanying chocolate sauce tasted wan. Michael Bauer, San Francisco Chronicle, "Barvale brings a taste of Spain to Divisadero with cocktails and tapas," 26 Jan. 2018 For decades bobal served primarily as the raw material for bulk wines produced by cooperatives, either for local consumption or export, where it was used to beef up wan reds. Eric Asimov, New York Times, "The Grape From Manchuela," 21 June 2018 Of course, censorship shapes crime writing here, which to some can make the genre seem relatively wan. New York Times, "How to Catch a Killer in China: Another Chinese Crime Novel Goes Global," 4 June 2018 Glenn, more slight, in the wan way of rock stars, slides in beside him. Sarah Scoles, Longreads, "Meet the New Mormons," 8 June 2018 Due in part to the lack of widespread public interest, the show got few reviews, with most offering wan praise at best. Emma Grey Ellis, WIRED, "What Brought Sense8 Back—and What Killed It in the First Place," 8 June 2018

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

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First Known Use of wan


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1578, in the meaning defined above


1983, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for wan


Middle English, from Old English wann dark, livid

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Dictionary Entries near wan

wampum snake







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Time Traveler for wan

The first known use of wan was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for wan



English Language Learners Definition of wan

: looking sick or pale
: having a weak quality


\ ˈwän How to pronounce wan (audio) \
wanner; wannest

Kids Definition of wan

1 : having a pale or sickly color
2 : showing little effort or energy a wan smile

Other Words from wan

wanly adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on wan

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for wan

Spanish Central: Translation of wan

Nglish: Translation of wan for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of wan for Arabic Speakers

Comments on wan

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showing great care, attention, and effort

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