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  1. Also fan tan. Also called parliament, sevens. Cards. a game in which the players play their sevens and other cards forming sequences in the same suits as their sevens, the winner being the player who first runs out of cards.
  2. a Chinese gambling game in which a pile of coins, counters, or objects is placed under a bowl and bets are made on what the remainder will be after they have been counted off in fours.

Origin of fan-tan

First recorded in 1875–80, fan-tan is from the Chinese word fān tān literally, repeated divisions, or < cognate dial. forms
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for fan-tan

Historical Examples

  • There, from a small quadrangular gallery, he could look down on the “well” of the fan-tan lay out below.

    The Shadow

    Arthur Stringer

  • Fan-tan was in progress at one of the tables, the four players being apparently the only strictly sober people in the room.

  • There, from a small quadrangular gallery, he could look down on the "well" of the fan-tan lay out below.

    Never-Fail Blake</p>

    Arthur Stringer

  • The Malays at fan-tan by the gleam of the slush-light under the awning grew silent.


    George Allan England

  • Here cards are generally used instead of dice to separate the players from their money, fan-tan being the favorite game.

British Dictionary definitions for fan-tan


  1. a Chinese gambling game in which a random number of counters are placed under a bowl and wagers laid on how many will remain after they have been divided by four
  2. a card game played in sequence, the winner being the first to use up all his or her cards

Word Origin

C19: from Chinese (Cantonese) fan t'an repeated divisions, from fan times + t'an division
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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