adjective, wan·ner, wan·nest.
  1. of an unnatural or sickly pallor; pallid; lacking color: His wan face suddenly flushed.
  2. showing or suggesting ill health, fatigue, unhappiness, etc.: a wan look; a wan smile.
  3. lacking in forcefulness, competence, or effectiveness: their wan attempts to organize the alumni.
  4. Archaic.
    1. dark or gloomy.
    2. pale in color or hue.
verb (used with or without object), wanned, wan·ning.
  1. 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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for wanly

Historical Examples of wanly

British Dictionary definitions for wanly


adjective wanner or wannest
  1. unnaturally pale esp from sickness, grief, etc
  2. characteristic or suggestive of ill health, unhappiness, etc
  3. (of light, stars, etc) faint or dim
verb wans, wanning or wanned
  1. to make or become wan
Derived Formswanly, adverbwanness, noun

Word Origin for wan

Old English wann dark; related to wanian to wane


abbreviation for
  1. wide area network
  2. 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 wanly



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

wanly in Science


  1. 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.