See more synonyms for pan on
verb (used without object), panned, pan·ning.
  1. to photograph or televise while rotating a camera on its vertical or horizontal axis in order to keep a moving person or object in view or allow the film to record a panorama: to pan from one end of the playing field to the other during the opening of the football game.
  2. (of a camera) to be moved or manipulated in such a manner: The cameras panned occasionally during the scene.
verb (used with object), panned, pan·ning.
  1. to move (a camera) in such a manner: to pan the camera across the scene.
  2. to photograph or televise (a scene, moving character, etc.) by panning the camera.
  1. the act of panning a camera.
  2. Also called panning shot. the filmed shot resulting from this.

Origin of pan

First recorded in 1920–25; shortening of panorama Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for panning

Contemporary Examples of panning

  • While panning for gold, he made himself a large hat from the hides he had collected on his trip.

    The Daily Beast logo
    My Love Letter to the Stetson

    Mark McKinnon

    December 24, 2014

  • “Costner suggests Dan Quayle with a sword,” added Mike Clark of USA Today, panning Robin Hood.

  • It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Downey's character is on to something when it comes to panning for Oscar gold.

    The Daily Beast logo
    10 Ways to Win an Oscar

    Jacob Bernstein

    February 28, 2010

Historical Examples of panning

British Dictionary definitions for panning


  1. Greek myth the god of fields, woods, shepherds, and flocks, represented as a man with a goat's legs, horns, and earsRelated adjectives: Pandean, Panic


    1. a wide metal vessel used in cooking
    2. (in combination)saucepan
  1. Also called: panful the amount such a vessel will hold
  2. any of various similar vessels used esp in industry, as for boiling liquids
  3. a dish used by prospectors, esp gold prospectors, for separating a valuable mineral from the gravel or earth containing it by washing and agitating
  4. either of the two dishlike receptacles on a balance
  5. Also called: lavatory pan British the bowl of a lavatory
    1. a natural or artificial depression in the ground where salt can be obtained by the evaporation of brine
    2. a natural depression containing water or mud
  6. Caribbean the indented top from an oil drum used as the treble drum in a steel band
  7. See hardpan, brainpan
  8. a small ice floe
  9. a slang word for face (def. 1a)
  10. a small cavity containing priming powder in the locks of old guns
  11. a hard substratum of soil
  12. short for pan loaf
verb pans, panning or panned
  1. (when tr, often foll by off or out) to wash (gravel) in a pan to separate particles of (valuable minerals) from it
  2. (intr often foll by out) (of gravel) to yield valuable minerals by this process
  3. (tr) informal to criticize harshlythe critics panned his new play
See also pan out

Word Origin for pan

Old English panne; related to Old Saxon, Old Norse panna, Old High German pfanna


verb pans, panning or panned
  1. to move (a film camera) or (of a film camera) to be moved so as to follow a moving object or obtain a panoramic effect
    1. the act of panning
    2. (as modifier)a pan shot

Word Origin for pan

C20: shortened from panoramic



paan (pɑːn)

  1. the leaf of the betel tree
  2. a preparation of this leaf which is chewed, together with betel nuts and lime, in India and the East Indies

Word Origin for pan

C17: from Hindi, from Sanskrit parna feather, wing, leaf
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 panning



Old English panne, earlier ponne (Mercian) "pan," from West Germanic *panna "pan" (cf. Old Norse panna, Old Frisian panne, Middle Dutch panne, Dutch pan, Old Low German panna, Old High German phanna, German pfanne), probably an early borrowing (4c. or 5c.) from Vulgar Latin *patna, from Latin patina "shallow pan, dish, stewpan," from Greek patane "plate, dish," from PIE *pet-ano-, from root *pete- "to spread" (see pace (n.)). Irish panna probably is from English, and Lithuanian pana is from German.

Used of pan-shaped parts of mechanical apparatus from c.1590; hence flash in the pan, a figurative use from early firearms, where a pan held the priming (and the gunpowder might "flash," but no shot ensue). To go out of the (frying) pan into the fire is first found in Spenser (1596).



"follow with a camera," 1913 shortening of panoramic in panoramic camera (1878). Meaning "to swing from one object to another in a scene" is from 1931. Related: Panned; panning.


Arcadian shepherd god with upper body of a man and horns and lower part like a goat, late 14c., a god of the woods and fields, from Latin, from Greek Pan. Klein says perhaps cognate with Sanskrit pusan, a Vedic god, guardian and multiplier of cattle and other human possessions, literally "nourisher." Similarity to pan "all" (see pan-) led to his being regarded as a personification of nature. Pan-pipe, upon which he supposedly played, is attested from 1820.



"to wash gravel or sand in a pan in search of gold," 1839, from pan (n.); thus to pan out "turn out, succeed" (1868) is a figurative use of this (literal sense from 1849). The meaning "criticize severely" is from 1911, probably from the notion in contemporary slang expressions such as on the pan "under reprimand or criticism" (1923). Related: Panned; panning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

panning in Culture


The Greek god of flocks, forests, meadows, and shepherds. He had the horns and feet of a goat. Pan frolicked about the landscape, playing delightful tunes.


Pan's musical instrument was a set of reed pipes, the “pipes of Pan.”


According to legend, Pan was the source of scary noises in the wilderness at night. Fright at these noises was called “panic.”
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with panning


In addition to the idiom beginning with pan

  • pan out

also see:

  • flash in the pan
  • out of the frying pan
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.