Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Unnaturally pale, as from physical or emotional distress.
  • adj. Suggestive or indicative of weariness, illness, or unhappiness; melancholy: a wan expression.
  • intransitive v. To become pale.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Pale, sickly-looking.
  • adj. Dim, faint.
  • adj. Bland, uninterested.
  • v. Simple past tense and past participle of win.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Won.
  • adj. Having a pale or sickly hue; languid of look; pale; pallid.
  • n. The quality of being wan; wanness.
  • intransitive v. To grow wan; to become pale or sickly in looks.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A wan tint or complexion; paleness.
  • n. The German name, sometimes used in English, of the dyestuff weld (not woad).
  • Dark; black; gloomy: applied to the weather, to water, streams, pools, etc.
  • Colorless; pallid; pale; sickly of hue.
  • Sorrowful; sad.
  • Frightful; awful; great.
  • Synonyms Pallid, etc. (see pale), ashy, cadaverous.
  • To render wan.
  • To grow or become wan.
  • An old preterit, of win.
  • A prefix of Anglo-Saxon origin, frequent in Middle English, meaning ‘wanting, deficient, lacking,’ and used as a negative, like un-, with which it often inter changed.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. (of light) lacking in intensity or brightness; dim or feeble
  • adj. lacking vitality as from weariness or illness or unhappiness
  • adj. abnormally deficient in color as suggesting physical or emotional distress
  • v. become pale and sickly
  • n. a computer network that spans a wider area than does a local area network

Etymologies

Middle English, pale, gloomy, from Old English wann, gloomy, dark.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English, from Old English ƿann ("dark, dusky"), from Proto-Germanic *wannaz (“dark, swart”), of uncertain origin. Cognate with Old Frisian wann, wonn ("dark"). (Wiktionary)
Inflected forms. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • I have more dust in wan minute than iver I saw in all me life before.

    CHAPTER I

  • But this still brought the station chief 21 wan wan is Chinese measure, NT$10,000, at that time US$250 in one week--you could buy one house with it.

    Archive 2006-04-01

  • And first he laces to his feet the shoes of gold that bear him high winging over seas or land as fleet as the gale; then takes the rod wherewith he calls wan souls forth of Orcus, or sends them again to the sad depth of hell, gives sleep and takes it away and unseals dead eyes; in whose strength he courses the winds and swims across the tossing clouds.

    The Aeneid of Virgil

  • I don't want to put no lie on a grave stun, if her name wan't Crompton. '

    The Cromptons

  • “Wan” pronounced wahn literally means ten thousand; in Chinese, wan represents all or every.

    Tao I

  • Sinitor Jones calls wan iv his thrusty hinchman to his side, an 'says he:' Mike, put on a pig-tail, an 'a blue shirt an' take a dillygation iv Chinnymen out to Canton an 'congratulate Mack on th' murdher iv mission'ries in China.

    Mr. Dooley's Philosophy

  • I'm what Hogan calls wan iv th 'mute, ingloryous heroes iv th' war; an 'not so dam mute, ayther.

    Mr. Dooley in Peace and in War

  • Pussy Boy: "I don 'know what bean dip is, but I know I don' wan 'any part of dat."

    Tallulah Morehead: Big Brother 12 : Mothra, the Penguin, and the Succubus.

  • Gordana talks about how she still has her health while looking kind of wan, and as the boys leave their apartment we see that their blackboard reads "Bring it on, Klum!"

    Una LaMarche: Project Runway Episode 8 Recap: Gay Divorcees

  • It's whole tone -- from music to low key imagery -- is kind of wan and wistful, if not downright mournful.

    Pro-Hillary 527 Ad: "It Takes More" Than Speeches

Comments

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  • white snow that sparkled in the wan winter sun.

    January 3, 2014

  • World Association of Newspapers (formerly Fédération Internationale des Editeurs de Journaux).

    June 15, 2009

  • aka wide area network

    June 15, 2009

  • By definition it's wishy-washy.

    October 21, 2008

  • I was accused of being pedantic for using this word, even though it only has 3 letters!

    December 5, 2006