[ fan ]
/ fæn /
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verb (used with object), fanned, fan·ning.
verb (used without object), fanned, fan·ning.
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Idioms about fan

    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.See also shit (def. 26).

Origin of fan

First recorded before 900; Middle English, Old English fann, from Latin vannus “winnowing basket”


fanlike, adjectivefanner, nounun·fanned, adjective

Other definitions for fan (2 of 3)

[ fan ]
/ fæn /

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

Origin of fan

An Americanism dating back to 1885–90; short for fanatic

Other definitions for fan (3 of 3)

[ fan, fahn ]
/ fæn, fɑn /

noun, plural Fans, (especially collectively) Fan.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


Where does fan come from?

Is the word fan, as in a device with rotating blades, related in any way to a fan, as in an enthusiastic devotee? Whether in cooling a room or cheering for a team, both fans do move a lot of air, as it were. But no, these senses of fan come from very different—though equally fantastic—roots.

Fan, the device

Let’s start with fan in the sense of “any device for producing a current of air.” This fan is very old, recorded in English before 900. It comes from the Old English, fann, directly from the Latin vannus, a “winnowing basket.”

Winnowing basket? This calls for a lesson in agricultural history. A winnowing basket is a type of broad, shallow basket used to winnow, that is, to free grain from lighter particles of chaff, dirt, and the like. This can be done, as shown in the video below, by tossing the grain, allowing the wind or a forced current of air to blow away the chaff and any impurities.

A winnowing basket is what fan originally meant in English. The word fan expanded to refer to other kinds of devices used to blow away chaff. By association with the movement of air involved in winnowing, fan further expanded to name various devices for generating currents of air, especially for cooling and ventilation.

Fan, the devotee 

Now, onto to that other fan, the kind that fills arenas for sporting and music events. This fan is “an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime, celebrity, or similar.” It was shortened from fanatic, “a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics.”

A fan is passionate, yes, but compared to a fanatic, the connotation of the word fan is generally much less extreme and uncritical. Fan was first recorded in American English around 1885–90. Early uses of fan refer to baseball die-hards before spreading to all sorts of other ardent followers.

Dig deeper

The word fanatic has an interesting origin of its own. Entering English around 1515–25, fanatic derives from the Latin fānāticus, “pertaining to a temple.” Fānāticus came to refer to people seen as “frantic” and “enthusiastic”—people thought to be inspired by a divinity or orgiastic rites. Fānāticus is based on the noun fānum, “temple, sanctuary.” Discover more at profane.

Did you know ... ?

Fan, as in “enthusiastic devotee,” has inspired many compound words and phrases. Explore the continuing evolution of the word fan at the following entries:

A true word fan? Learn more about a slang term for a “very zealous fan”: stan.

How to use fan in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for fan (1 of 2)

/ (fæn) /

verb fans, fanning or fanned (mainly tr)

Derived forms of fan

fanlike, adjectivefanner, noun

Word Origin for fan

Old English fann, from Latin vannus

British Dictionary definitions for fan (2 of 2)

/ (fæn) /

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with fan


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.