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.

Words nearby -an

Compare -enne, -ean, -arian, -ician.

Origin of -an

Middle English < Latin -ānus, -āna, -ānum; in some words replacing -ain, -en < Old French < Latin
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British Dictionary definitions for -an


-ean or -ian


(forming adjectives and nouns) belonging to or relating to; a person belonging to or coming fromEuropean
(forming adjectives and nouns) typical of or resembling; a person typical ofElizabethan
(forming adjectives and nouns) adhering to or following; an adherent ofChristian
(forming nouns) a person who specializes or is expert indietitian; phonetician

Word Origin for -an

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