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[skan] /skæn/
verb (used with object), scanned, scanning.
to glance at or over or read hastily:
to scan a page.
to examine the particulars or points of minutely; scrutinize.
to peer out at or observe repeatedly or sweepingly, as a large expanse; survey.
to analyze (verse) as to its prosodic or metrical structure; read or recite (verse) so as to indicate or test the metrical form.
to read (data) for use by a computer or computerized device, especially using an optical scanner.
Television. to traverse (a surface) with a beam of light or electrons in order to reproduce or transmit a picture.
Radar. to traverse (a region) with a beam from a radar transmitter.
Medicine/Medical, Biology. to examine (a body, organ, tissue, or other biologically active material) with a scanner.
verb (used without object), scanned, scanning.
to examine the meter of verse.
(of verse) to conform to the rules of meter.
Television. to scan a surface or the like.
an act or instance of scanning; close examination.
a visual examination by means of a television camera, as for the purpose of making visible or relaying pictures from a remote place:
a satellite scan of the dark side of the moon; video scans of property listings available to customers.
a particular image or frame in such video observation or a photograph made from it.
Medicine/Medical, Biology.
  1. examination of the body or an organ or part, or a biologically active material, by means of a technique such as computed axial tomography, nuclear magnetic resonance, ultrasonography, or scintigraphy.
  2. the image or display so obtained.
Origin of scan
1350-1400; Middle English scannen, variant of *scanden < Late Latin scandere to scan verse, Latin: to climb (see ascend)
Related forms
scannable, adjective
self-scanned, adjective
unscannable, adjective
unscanned, adjective
Can be confused
scam, scan.
1. study, investigate, inspect, search. 2. skim.

Scan. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for scan


verb scans, scanning, scanned
(transitive) to scrutinize minutely
(transitive) to glance over quickly
(transitive) (prosody) to read or analyse (verse) according to the rules of metre and versification
(intransitive) (prosody) to conform to the rules of metre and versification
(transitive) (electronics) to move a beam of light, electrons, etc, in a predetermined pattern over (a surface or region) to obtain information, esp either to sense and transmit or to reproduce a television image
(transitive) to examine data stored on (magnetic tape, etc), usually in order to retrieve information
to examine or search (a prescribed region) by systematically varying the direction of a radar or sonar beam
(physics) to examine or produce or be examined or produced by a continuous charge of some variable: to scan a spectrum
(med) to obtain an image of (a part of the body) by means of a scanner
the act or an instance of scanning
  1. the examination of a part of the body by means of a scanner: a brain scan, ultrasound scan
  2. the image produced by a scanner
Derived Forms
scannable, adjective
Word Origin
C14: from Late Latin scandere to scan (verse), from Latin: to climb
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 scan

late 14c., "mark off verse in metric feet," from Late Latin scandere "to scan verse," originally, in classical Latin, "to climb, rise, mount" (the connecting notion is of the rising and falling rhythm of poetry), from PIE *skand- "to spring, leap, climb" (cf. Sanskrit skandati "hastens, leaps, jumps;" Greek skandalon "stumbling block;" Middle Irish sescaind "he sprang, jumped," sceinm "a bound, jump").

Missing -d in English is probably from confusion with suffix -ed (see lawn (n.1)). Sense of "look at closely, examine minutely (as one does when counting metrical feet in poetry)" first recorded 1540s. The (opposite) sense of "look over quickly, skim" is first attested 1926. Related: Scanned; scanning.


1706, "close investigation," from scan (v.). Meaning "act of scanning" is from 1937; sense of "image obtained by scanning" is from 1953.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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scan in Medicine

scan (skān)
v. scanned, scan·ning, scans

  1. To move a finely focused beam of light or electrons in a systematic pattern over a surface in order to reproduce or sense and subsequently transmit an image.

  2. To examine a body or a body part with a CAT scanner or similar scanning apparatus.

  3. To search stored computer data automatically for specific data.

  1. The act or an instance of scanning.

  2. Examination of a body or body part by a CAT scanner or similar scanning apparatus.

  3. A picture or an image that is produced by this means.

scan'na·ble adj.
scan'ner n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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