[ tan ]
See synonyms for tan on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object),tanned, tan·ning.
  1. to convert (a hide) into leather, especially by soaking or steeping in a bath prepared from tanbark or synthetically.

  2. to make brown by exposure to ultraviolet rays, as of the sun.

  1. Informal. to thrash; spank.

verb (used without object),tanned, tan·ning.
  1. to become tanned.

  1. the brown color imparted to the skin by exposure to the sun or open air.

  2. yellowish brown; light brown.

adjective,tan·ner, tan·nest.
  1. of the color of tan; yellowish-brown.

  2. used in or relating to tanning processes, materials, etc.

Idioms about tan

  1. tan someone's hide, Informal. to beat someone soundly: She threatened to tan our hides if she found us on her property again.

Origin of tan

First recorded before 1000; 1920–25 for def. 2; Middle English tannen “to make hide into leather,” late Old English tannian (only in past participle getanned ), from Medieval Latin tannāre, derivative of tannum “oak bark, tanbark,” from Germanic; compare Old High German tanna “oak, fir,” akin to Dutch den “fir”

Other words from tan

  • tan·na·ble, adjective
  • un·tanned, adjective
  • well-tanned, adjective

Words Nearby tan

Other definitions for tan (2 of 4)

[ tan ]

Origin of tan

By shortening

Other definitions for Tan (3 of 4)

[ tan ]

  1. Amy, born 1952, U.S. novelist.

Other definitions for TAN (4 of 4)

[ tan ]

  1. tax-anticipation note.

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use tan in a sentence

  • She wore soiled Burberry, high-legged tan boots, and a peaked cap of distinctly military appearance.

    Dope | Sax Rohmer
  • The corporal, rather chalky-looking under his tan, stepped forward and laid a hand on MacRae's shoulder.

    Raw Gold | Bertrand W. Sinclair
  • Woollen rags are mixed with cotton which has no manurial value, and the skin refuse from tan-works contains much lime.

  • I recognized the reddish tan that comes from facing a hot wind on the top of a moving boxcar.

    Nine Men in Time | Noel Miller Loomis
  • He was as well groomed as usual, but he was unmistakably pale beneath his new coat of tan.

    Ancestors | Gertrude Atherton

British Dictionary definitions for tan (1 of 2)


/ (tæn) /

  1. the brown colour produced by the skin after intensive exposure to ultraviolet rays, esp those of the sun

  2. a light or moderate yellowish-brown colour

  1. short for tanbark

verbtans, tanning or tanned
  1. to go brown or cause to go brown after exposure to ultraviolet rays: she tans easily

  2. to convert (a skin or hide) into leather by treating it with a tanning agent, such as vegetable tannins, chromium salts, fish oils, or formaldehyde

  1. (tr) slang to beat or flog

adjectivetanner or tannest
  1. of the colour tan: tan gloves

  2. used in or relating to tanning

Origin of tan

Old English tannian (unattested as infinitive, attested as getanned, past participle), from Medieval Latin tannāre, from tannum tanbark, perhaps of Celtic origin; compare Irish tana thin

Derived forms of tan

  • tannable, adjective
  • tannish, adjective

British Dictionary definitions for tan (2 of 2)


/ (tæn) /

abbreviation for
  1. tangent (sense 2)

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

Scientific definitions for tan


  1. Abbreviation of tangent

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.