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a suffix occurring originally in adjectives borrowed from Latin, formed from nouns denoting places (Roman; urban) or persons (Augustan), and now productively forming English adjectives by extension of the Latin pattern. Attached to geographic names, it denotes provenance or membership (American; Chicagoan; Tibetan), the latter sense now extended to membership in social classes, religious denominations, etc., in adjectives formed from various kinds of noun bases (Episcopalian; pedestrian; Puritan; Republican) and membership in zoological taxa (acanthocephalan; crustacean). Attached to personal names, it has the additional senses “contemporary with” (Elizabethan; Jacobean) or “proponent of” (Hegelian; Freudian) the person specified by the noun base. The suffix -an, and its variant -ian also occurs in a set of personal nouns, mainly loanwords from French, denoting one who engages in, practices, or works with the referent of the base noun (comedian; grammarian; historian; theologian); this usage is especially productive with nouns ending in -ic, (electrician; logician; technician). See -ian for relative distribution with that suffix.
Compare -enne, -ean, -arian, -ician.
Origin of -an
Middle English < Latin -ānus, -āna, -ānum; in some words replacing -ain, -en < Old French < Latin Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for -an


(forming adjectives and nouns) belonging to or relating to; a person belonging to or coming from: European
(forming adjectives and nouns) typical of or resembling; a person typical of: Elizabethan
(forming adjectives and nouns) adhering to or following; an adherent of: Christian
(forming nouns) a person who specializes or is expert in: dietitian, phonetician
Word Origin
from Latin -ānus, suffix of adjectives
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for -an

word-forming element meaning "pertaining to," from Latin -anus, in some cases via French -ain, -en.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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