• synonyms


[uh n; when stressed an]
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  1. Pronunciation Spelling. and.
  2. Archaic. if.
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Also an', 'n, 'n'.

Origin of an2

1125–75; Middle English, unstressed phonetic variant of and
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for an'


  1. myth the Sumerian sky godBabylonian counterpart: Anu
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the chemical symbol for
  1. actinon
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abbreviation for
  1. Anglo-Norman
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  1. a form of the indefinite article used before an initial vowel soundan old car; an elf; an honour
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Word Origin

Old English ān one


An was formerly often used before words that begin with h and are unstressed on the first syllable: an hotel; an historic meeting . Sometimes the initial h was not pronounced. This usage is now becoming obsolete



  1. (subordinating) an obsolete or dialect word for if See and (def. 9)
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the internet domain name for
  1. Netherlands Antilles
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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 an'


indefinite article before words beginning with vowels, 12c., from Old English an (with a long vowel) "one; lone," also used as a prefix an- "single, lone;" see one for the divergence of that word from this. Also see a, of which this is the older, fuller form.

In other European languages, identity between indefinite article and the word for "one" remains explicit (e.g. French un, German ein, etc.) Old English got by without indefinite articles: He was a good man in Old English was he wæs god man. Circa 15c., a and an commonly were written as one word with the following noun, which contributed to the confusion over how such words as newt and umpire ought to be divided (see N).

In Shakespeare, etc., an sometimes is a contraction of as if (a usage first attested c.1300), especially before it.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper