[ uh n; when stressed an ]
/ ən; when stressed æn /

indefinite article

the form of a before an initial vowel sound (an arch; an honor) and sometimes, especially in British English, before an initial unstressed syllable beginning with a silent or weakly pronounced h: an historian.


Can You Ace This Quiz About “Compliment” vs. “Complement”?
Take this quiz to see if you really know the difference between “compliment” and “complement"!
Question 1 of 11
“Compliment” and “complement” had a shared meaning a long time ago, but today they are no longer interchangeable.

Origin of an

before 950; Middle English; Old English ān one in a weakened sense

usage note for an

See a1.

Definition for an (2 of 11)

[ uh n; when stressed an ]
/ ən; when stressed æn /


Pronunciation Spelling. and.
Archaic. if.
Also an', 'n, 'n'.

Origin of an

1125–75; Middle English, unstressed phonetic variant of and

Definition for an (3 of 11)

[ ahn ]
/ ɑn /


the Sumerian god of heaven: the counterpart of the Akkadian Anu.

Definition for an (4 of 11)


Symbol, Chemistry.

Definition for an (5 of 11)


or A.-N.

Definition for an (6 of 11)


a prefix occurring before stems beginning with a vowel or h in loanwords from Greek, where it means “not,” “without,” “lacking” (anarchy; anecdote); used in the formation of compound words: anelectric.
Also before a consonant, a-.

Origin of an-

< Greek. See a-6, in-3, un-1

Definition for an (7 of 11)


variant of ad- before n: announce.

Definition for an (8 of 11)


variant of ana- before a vowel: anion.

Definition for an (9 of 11)


in the year.

Origin of an.

From the Latin word annō

Definition for an (10 of 11)


Associate in Nursing.

Definition for an (11 of 11)


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

Origin of -an

Middle English < Latin -ānus, -āna, -ānum; in some words replacing -ain, -en < Old French < Latin Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

British Dictionary definitions for an (1 of 8)

/ (æn, unstressed ən) /


a form of the indefinite article used before an initial vowel soundan old car; an elf; an honour

Word Origin for an

Old English ān one

usage for an

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

British Dictionary definitions for an (2 of 8)



/ (æn, unstressed ən) /


(subordinating) an obsolete or dialect word for if See and (def. 9)

British Dictionary definitions for an (3 of 8)


the internet domain name for

Netherlands Antilles

British Dictionary definitions for an (4 of 8)

/ (ɑːn) /


myth the Sumerian sky godBabylonian counterpart: Anu

British Dictionary definitions for an (5 of 8)


the chemical symbol for


British Dictionary definitions for an (6 of 8)


abbreviation for


British Dictionary definitions for an (7 of 8)


before a consonant a-


not; withoutanaphrodisiac

Word Origin for an-

from Greek

British Dictionary definitions for an (8 of 8)


-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

Medical definitions for an



Variant ofa-
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.