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verb (used with object), dunned, dun·ning.
  1. to make repeated and insistent demands upon, especially for the payment of a debt.
  1. a person, especially a creditor, who duns another.
  2. a demand for payment, especially a written one.

Origin of dun1

First recorded in 1620–30; origin obscure


  1. dull, grayish brown.
  2. dark; gloomy.
  1. a dun color.
  2. a dun-colored horse with a black mane and tail.
  3. mayfly.
  4. Angling. dun fly.

Origin of dun2

before 1000; Middle English dun(ne), Old English dunn; cognate with Old Saxon dun
Related formsdun·ness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for dun


verb duns, dunning or dunned
  1. (tr) to press or importune (a debtor) for the payment of a debt
  1. a person, esp a hired agent, who importunes another for the payment of a debt
  2. a demand for payment, esp one in writing

Word Origin

C17: of unknown origin


  1. a brownish-grey colour
  2. a horse of this colour
  3. angling
    1. an immature adult mayfly (the subimago), esp one of the genus Ephemera
    2. an artificial fly imitating this or a similar fly
adjective dunner or dunnest
  1. of a dun colour
  2. dark and gloomy

Word Origin

Old English dunn; related to Old Norse dunna wild duck, Middle Irish doun dark; see dusk
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

Word Origin and History for dun


"to insist on payment of debt," 1620s, perhaps related to dunnen "to sound, resound, make a din" (c.1200, dialectal variant of din), or shortened from dunkirk (c.1600) "privateer," a private vessel licensed to attack enemy ships during wartime, from Dunkirk, French port from which they sailed. The oldest theory traces it to a Joe Dun, supposedly a London bailiff famous for catching defaulters. Related: Dunned; dunning. As a noun from 1620s.


Old English dunn "dingy brown, dark-colored," perhaps from Celtic (cf. Old Irish donn "dark;" Gaelic donn "brown, dark;" Welsh dwnn "brownish"), from PIE *donnos, *dusnos "dark."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper