verb (used with object), fanned, fan·ning.

verb (used without object), fanned, fan·ning.


    hit the fan, Slang. to become suddenly more awkward, embarrassing, or troublesome: When news of the incident was leaked to the press, everything hit the fan at once.

Origin of fan

before 900; Middle English, Old English fann < Latin vannus winnowing basket
Related formsfan·like, adjectivefan·ner, nounun·fanned, adjective




an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime, celebrity, etc.: a baseball fan; a great fan of Charlie Chaplin.

Origin of fan

1885–90, Americanism; short for fanatic

Synonyms for fan


[fan, fahn]

noun, plural Fans, (especially collectively) Fan. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for fan

Contemporary Examples of fan

Historical Examples of fan

  • And Mrs. Oldaker, with a coy fillip of her fan, called him a naughty boy.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • She colored slightly, and opened and shut her fan in a nervous way.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic

  • Why, if Dick could only work his ears he could fan himself with it beautifully.

    The Rock of Chickamauga

    Joseph A. Altsheler

  • He was too much for her, she saw, and the knowledge only served to fan her indignation and suspicions.

    The Fortune Hunter

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • She tapped Tom's shoulder with her fan and smiled, graciously corrective.

British Dictionary definitions for fan




  1. any device for creating a current of air by movement of a surface or number of surfaces, esp a rotating device consisting of a number of blades attached to a central hub
  2. a machine that rotates such a device
any of various hand-agitated devices for cooling onself, esp a collapsible semicircular series of flat segments of paper, ivory, etc
something shaped like such a fan, such as the tail of certain birds
  1. a kind of basket formerly used for winnowing grain
  2. a machine equipped with a fan for winnowing or cleaning grain

verb fans, fanning or fanned (mainly tr)

to cause a current of air, esp cool air, to blow upon, as by means of a fanto fan one's face
to agitate or move (air, smoke, etc) with or as if with a fan
to make fiercer, more ardent, etcfan one's passion
(also intr often foll by out) to spread out or cause to spread out in the shape of a fan
  1. to fire (an automatic gun) continuously by keeping the trigger depressed
  2. to fire (a nonautomatic gun) several times by repeatedly chopping back the hammer with the palm
to winnow (grain) by blowing the chaff away from it
Derived Formsfanlike, adjectivefanner, noun

Word Origin for fan

Old English fann, from Latin vannus




an ardent admirer of a pop star, film actor, football team, etc
a devotee of a sport, hobby, etc

Word Origin for fan

C17, re-formed C19: from fan (atic)
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 fan

device to make an air current, Old English fann (West Saxon) "a basket or shovel for winnowing grain" (by tossing it in the air), from Latin vannus, related to ventus "wind" (see wind (n.1)).

The chaff, being lighter, would blow off. Sense of "device for moving air" first recorded late 14c.; the hand-held version is first attested 1550s. A fan-light (1819) was shaped like a lady's fan.


"devotee," 1889, American English, originally of baseball enthusiasts, probably a shortening of fanatic, but may be influenced by the fancy, a collective term for followers of a certain hobby or sport (especially boxing); see fancy. There is an isolated use from 1682, but the modern word is likely a late 19c. formation. Fan club attested by 1930.


late Old English fannian "to winnow grain," from the noun (see fan (n.1)). Meaning "to stir up air" is from early 15c. Related: Fanned; fanning. To fan out "spread out like a hand-held fan," is from 1590s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with fan


In addition to the idiom beginning with fan

  • fan the flames

also see:

  • shit will hit the fan
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.