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[fan] /fæn/
any device for producing a current of air by the movement of a broad surface or a number of such surfaces.
an implement of feathers, leaves, paper, cloth, etc., often in the shape of a long triangle or of a semicircle, for waving lightly in the hand to create a cooling current of air about a person:
We sat on the veranda, cooling ourselves with palm-leaf fans.
anything resembling such an implement, as the tail of a bird.
any of various devices consisting essentially of a series of radiating vanes or blades attached to and revolving with a central hublike portion to produce a current of air:
ceiling fan; wall fan.
a series of revolving blades supplying air for winnowing or cleaning grain.
Horology. fly1 (def 28).
a semicircular decoration of bunting.
Physical Geography. an alluvial fan.
verb (used with object), fanned, fanning.
to move or agitate (the air) with or as if with a fan.
to cause air to blow upon, as from a fan; cool or refresh with or as if with a fan:
He fanned his face with a newspaper.
to stir to activity with or as if with a fan:
to fan a flame; to fan emotions.
(of a breeze, current of air, etc.) to blow upon, as if driven by a fan:
A cool breeze fanned the shore.
to spread out like a fan:
The dealer fanned the cards.
Informal. to move (oneself) quickly:
You'll fan your tail out of here if you know what's good for you.
Agriculture. to winnow, especially by an artificial current of air.
Baseball. (of a pitcher) to strike out (a batter).
Chiefly South Midland and Southern U.S. to punish by spanking; spank:
Your mother will fan you good if you break that dish.
verb (used without object), fanned, fanning.
to strike, swing, or brush lightly at something.
Western U.S. (chiefly cowboy use) . to slap the flanks of (a horse or other animal) repeatedly with a hat to get it to move or move faster.
to spread out like a fan (often followed by out):
The forest fire fanned out in all directions.
Baseball. (of a batter) to strike out, usually by swinging at and missing the pitch charged as the third strike.
hit the fan, Slang. to become suddenly more awkward, embarrassing, or troublesome:
When news of the incident was leaked to the press, everything hit the fan at once.
Origin of fan1
before 900; Middle English, Old English fann < Latin vannus winnowing basket
Related forms
fanlike, adjective
fanner, noun
unfanned, adjective


[fan] /fæn/
an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime, celebrity, etc.:
a baseball fan; a great fan of Charlie Chaplin.
1885-90, Americanism; short for fanatic
supporter, enthusiast, partisan, booster, addict.


[fan, fahn] /fæn, fɑn/
noun, plural Fans (especially collectively) Fan.
Fang. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for fan
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And Mrs. Oldaker, with a coy fillip of her fan, called him a naughty boy.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • She colored slightly, and opened and shut her fan in a nervous way.

    In the Valley Harold Frederic
  • Why, if Dick could only work his ears he could fan himself with it beautifully.

    The Rock of Chickamauga Joseph A. Altsheler
  • He was too much for her, she saw, and the knowledge only served to fan her indignation and suspicions.

    The Fortune Hunter Louis Joseph Vance
  • She tapped Tom's shoulder with her fan and smiled, graciously corrective.

    The Gentleman From Indiana Booth Tarkington
British Dictionary definitions for fan


  1. any device for creating a current of air by movement of a surface or number of surfaces, esp a rotating device consisting of a number of blades attached to a central hub
  2. a machine that rotates such a device
any of various hand-agitated devices for cooling onself, esp a collapsible semicircular series of flat segments of paper, ivory, etc
something shaped like such a fan, such as the tail of certain birds
  1. a kind of basket formerly used for winnowing grain
  2. a machine equipped with a fan for winnowing or cleaning grain
verb (mainly transitive) fans, fanning, fanned
to cause a current of air, esp cool air, to blow upon, as by means of a fan: to fan one's face
to agitate or move (air, smoke, etc) with or as if with a fan
to make fiercer, more ardent, etc: fan one's passion
(also intransitive) often foll by out. to spread out or cause to spread out in the shape of a fan
  1. to fire (an automatic gun) continuously by keeping the trigger depressed
  2. to fire (a nonautomatic gun) several times by repeatedly chopping back the hammer with the palm
to winnow (grain) by blowing the chaff away from it
Derived Forms
fanlike, adjective
fanner, noun
Word Origin
Old English fann, from Latin vannus


an ardent admirer of a pop star, film actor, football team, etc
a devotee of a sport, hobby, etc
Word Origin
C17, re-formed C19: from fan(atic)
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 fan

device to make an air current, Old English fann (West Saxon) "a basket or shovel for winnowing grain" (by tossing it in the air), from Latin vannus, related to ventus "wind" (see wind (n.1)).

The chaff, being lighter, would blow off. Sense of "device for moving air" first recorded late 14c.; the hand-held version is first attested 1550s. A fan-light (1819) was shaped like a lady's fan.


"devotee," 1889, American English, originally of baseball enthusiasts, probably a shortening of fanatic, but may be influenced by the fancy, a collective term for followers of a certain hobby or sport (especially boxing); see fancy. There is an isolated use from 1682, but the modern word is likely a late 19c. formation. Fan club attested by 1930.


late Old English fannian "to winnow grain," from the noun (see fan (n.1)). Meaning "to stir up air" is from early 15c. Related: Fanned; fanning. To fan out "spread out like a hand-held fan," is from 1590s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for fan

fan 1


A devotee or enthusiast, esp of a sport; aficionado; buff, bug: a tennis fan/ cathedral fan

[1889+ Baseball; origin uncertain; perhaps fr fanatic, or perhaps fr the fancy, ''sports followers or fanciers'']

fan 2


  1. An aircraft propeller or engine (WWII Army Air Forces)
  2. A quick brush or pat used by pickpockets to find the place of the victim's wallet (1847+ Underworld)


  1. To strike out; whiff (1886+ Baseball)
  2. To search someone; frisk: The gendarmes fan them to see if they have any rods on them (1920s+ Police)
  3. : You will be fanned by hands feeling for an impression of your wallet
  4. To chat; gossip; bat the breeze: all the other chauffeurs I'd stand around fanning with (1940s+)
  5. To manipulate the coin-return lever of a pay telephone in the hope of dislodging coins: Mary was embarrassed at being observed at her fanning activities (1970s+)

Related Terms

bat the breeze, fan someone's tail, the shit hits the fan

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with fan


In addition to the idiom beginning with fan also see: shit will hit the fan
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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