noun (1)
\ ˈfan How to pronounce fan (audio) \

Definition of fan

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : any of various devices for winnowing grain
2 : an instrument for producing a current of air: such as
a : a device that is held in the hand and moved back and forth to cool a person and that is usually shaped like a segment of a circle and composed of material (such as feathers or paper) mounted on thin rods or slats moving about a pivot so that the device may be closed compactly when not in use
b : a device that consists of a series of vanes radiating from a hub rotated on its axle by a motor a ceiling fan to stir the air
c slang : an airplane propeller
3a : something resembling an open fan (such as the leaf of certain palms)
b : a gently sloping fan-shaped body of detritus especially : alluvial fan


fanned; fanning

Definition of fan (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

1a : to drive away the chaff of (grain) by means of a current of air
b : to eliminate (chaff) by winnowing
2 : to move or impel (air) with a fan
3 : to blow or breathe upon the breeze fanning her hair
4a : to direct a current of air upon with a fan
b : to stir up to activity as if by fanning : stimulate fanning the fires of nationalism
5 archaic : wave
6 slang : spank
7 : to spread like a fan the peacock fanned his tail
8 : to strike (a batter) out in baseball
9 : to fire a series of shots from (a single-action revolver) by holding the trigger back and successively striking the hammer to the rear with the free hand

intransitive verb

1 : to move like a fan : flutter
2 : to spread like a fan often used with out the searchers fanned out


noun (2)

Definition of fan (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : an enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or a performing art) usually as a spectator
2 : an ardent admirer or enthusiast (as of a celebrity or a pursuit) science-fiction fans

Other Words from fan

Noun (1)

fanlike \ ˈfan-​ˌlīk How to pronounce fan (audio) \ adjective


fanner \ ˈfa-​nər How to pronounce fan (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for fan

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Noun (2)

Antonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Noun (2)

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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.”

Examples of fan in a Sentence

Verb He fanned himself with a newspaper while he waited for the bus. The pitcher has fanned six batters in the first three innings. The batter fanned on a curveball.
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First Known Use of fan

Noun (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Noun (2)

1682, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for fan

Noun (1) and Verb

Middle English, from Old English fann, from Latin vannus — more at winnow

Noun (2)

probably short for fanatic

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Time Traveler for fan

Time Traveler

The first known use of fan was before the 12th century

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Dictionary Entries Near fan




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Cite this Entry

“Fan.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for fan



English Language Learners Definition of fan

: to move air on or toward (someone or something) with a fan
: to strike out


\ ˈfan How to pronounce fan (audio) \

Kids Definition of fan

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : a machine or device that is used for producing a current of air
2 : something having the shape of a half circle

Other Words from fan

fanlike \ -​ˌlīk \ adjective


fanned; fanning

Kids Definition of fan (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : to direct a current of air upon with a fan
2 : to strike out in baseball



Kids Definition of fan (Entry 3 of 3)

: an enthusiastic follower or admirer

More from Merriam-Webster on fan

Nglish: Translation of fan for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of fan for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about fan


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