adjective, wan·ner, wan·nest.

of an unnatural or sickly pallor; pallid; lacking color: His wan face suddenly flushed.
showing or suggesting ill health, fatigue, unhappiness, etc.: a wan look; a wan smile.
lacking in forcefulness, competence, or effectiveness: their wan attempts to organize the alumni.
  1. dark or gloomy.
  2. pale in color or hue.

verb (used with or without object), wanned, wan·ning.

to become or make wan.

Origin of wan

before 900; Middle English; Old English wann dark, gloomy
Related formswan·ly, adverbwan·ness, noun
Can be confusedone wan won

Synonyms for wan

1. ashen. See pale1. 3. feeble, weak, half-hearted, lame.

Antonyms for wan

1. ruddy.



verb Obsolete.

a simple past tense of win1.




Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for wan

Contemporary Examples of wan

Historical Examples of wan

  • "I wish you had brought in the tent, too," said the general with a wan smile.

  • "Miss Porter'll tell ye about this wan," said Mike, diplomatically.


    W. A. Fraser

  • There was a puzzled expression upon his wan, blood-streaked face.

    The Monster Men

    Edgar Rice Burroughs

  • He lifted a face so wan, so altered, that the doctor started.

  • The stars were wan, and the full moon shone over the fields.

British Dictionary definitions for wan


adjective wanner or wannest

unnaturally pale esp from sickness, grief, etc
characteristic or suggestive of ill health, unhappiness, etc
(of light, stars, etc) faint or dim

verb wans, wanning or wanned

to make or become wan
Derived Formswanly, adverbwanness, noun

Word Origin for wan

Old English wann dark; related to wanian to wane


abbreviation for

wide area network
Nigeria (international car registration)

Word Origin for WAN

From W(est) A(frica) N(igeria)
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 wan

Old English wann "dark, lacking luster," later "leaden, pale, gray," of uncertain origin, and not found in other Germanic languages. The connecting notion is colorlessness. Perhaps related to wane.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

wan in Science



Short for wide area network.A communications network that uses such devices as telephone lines, satellite dishes, or radio waves to span a larger geographic area than can be covered by a LAN. The Internet is a WAN.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.