Definition of scan in English:

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Pronunciation: /skan/

verb (scans, scanning, scanned)

[with object]
1Look at all parts of (something) carefully in order to detect some feature: he raised his binoculars to scan the coast
More example sentences
  • Octavia watched carefully as Gia scanned the room searching for the source of the problem.
  • She carefully scanned the area, searching for anything resembling a ventilation shaft.
  • His stare was more focused and he scanned the room carefully.
study, examine, scrutinize, inspect, survey, search, scour, sweep, rake;
look at, look someone/something up and down, stare at, gaze at, eye, watch, contemplate, regard;
take stock of;
Hunting  glass
informal check out, recce
North American informal scope
archaic con
1.1Look quickly but not very thoroughly through (a document or other text) in order to identify relevant information: we scan the papers for news from the trouble spots [no object]: I scanned through the reference materials
More example sentences
  • Growling irritably to himself, he quickly scanned through a few pages of the history tomes and documents but they proved to be dry streams.
  • Claudia slipped the order from his hand and unrolled it, her eyes scanning the document quickly.
  • Ever get to a Web page that has a lot of text on it, and quickly scanning the page doesn't immediately produce what you're looking for?
glance through/over, look through/over, have a look at, run/pass/cast one's eye over, skim, flick through, flip through, riffle through, leaf through, thumb through, read quickly, browse through;
2Cause (a surface, object, or part of the body) to be traversed by a detector or an electromagnetic beam: their brains are scanned so that researchers can monitor the progress of the disease
More example sentences
  • Desktops and other immediately visible surfaces were scanned for errant spoons.
  • Another one said, ‘We can scan the body completely and find moles that may not be visible to the naked eye.’
  • The stand-alone equipment is much like a metal detector in an airport: it scans the entire body.
2.1 [with object and adverbial] Cause (a beam) to traverse across a surface or object: we scanned the beam over a sector of 120°
2.2Convert (a document or picture) into digital form for storage or processing on a computer: text and pictures can be scanned into the computer
More example sentences
  • The documents were eventually scanned into a computer for cross-referencing.
  • The drawing is scanned into a computer in order to digitise the data contained in the drawing.
  • At Yumeta, pencil sketches are scanned into a computer, then a technician adds color digitally.
2.3Resolve (a picture) into its elements of light and shade in a prearranged pattern for the purposes of television transmission.
3Analyse the metre of (a line of verse) by reading with the emphasis on its rhythm or by examining the pattern of feet or syllables.
Example sentences
  • By the end of the term, several students still could not scan a basic line or write in metre.
3.1 [no object] (Of verse) conform to metrical principles: well, it doesn’t rhyme and certainly doesn’t scan
More example sentences
  • I thought it a bit pompous, myself, and the third verse doesn't scan at all, but it's not so bad a song as all that.
  • Whatever you tried to do, there was a bar that didn't scan, a couplet that you just couldn't find a rhyme for.
  • If a collection of phrases, no matter how beautiful and profound, do not rhyme or scan, then what apart from their layout on the page distinguishes them from prose?


1An act of scanning someone or something: a quick scan of the sports page
More example sentences
  • She remembered her excitement when they arrived at the St Kilda Town Hall and a quick scan of the women's dresses reassured her about her choice.
  • A quick scan of the terrain on Monday revealed very few skaters wearing helmets - including the pro skaters themselves.
  • The list of award nominees, the eventual winners and even a quick scan of the banquet hall at the Palliser Hotel all gave reasons for optimism.
inspection, scrutiny, examination, survey, search
glance, look, flick, browse, skim
2A medical examination using a scanner: a brain scan
More example sentences
  • If it is not robust, then any observed correlation with apparent abnormal brain scans is medically meaningless.
  • He had seen his family doctor, osteopaths, orthopaedic surgeons, and physiotherapists, had many scans, tried many medications, collars, and even considered suicide.
  • Films that were not interpreted by emergency physicians, such as specialised scans, ultrasound scans, and intravenous pyelogram studies, were not included in the data.
examination, screening;
ultrasound (scan)
2.1An image obtained by scanning or with a scanner: you can’t predict anything until he has seen the scan
More example sentences
  • According to Dennis Elliott, marketing director at Kolibri Art Studio, a technician first makes a digital scan of the image to be reproduced.



Example sentences
  • Such a bar code uses a reduced space symbology technology, a next-generation scannable bar code system that provides more data for ‘space-constrained’ applications.
  • It would certainly be possible to enumerate the points a little more, thus making the page more ‘list-like’ (as with bullets or something) and scannable.
  • A scannable resume is created when your paper resume is electronically scanned or ‘read’ by an employer's computer and stored as a computer file.


Late Middle English (as a verb in sense 3 of the verb): from Latin scandere 'climb' (in late Latin 'scan (verses)'), by analogy with the raising and lowering of one's foot when marking rhythm. From 'analyse (metre)' arose the senses 'estimate the correctness of' and 'examine minutely', which led to 'look at searchingly' (late 18th century).

  • This was first used as a verb in the sense ‘analyse the metre (of verse)’. The source is Latin scandere ‘climb’ by comparison with the raising and lowering of one's foot when marking rhythm. From this the sense developed into ‘estimate the correctness of’ and ‘examine minutely’, which in turn led to ‘look at searchingly’ in the late 18th century. See also scale

Words that rhyme with scan

Aberfan, Adrianne, an, Anne, artisan, astrakhan, ban, began, Belmopan, bipartisan, bran, can, Cannes, Cézanne, Cheyenne, clan, courtesan, cran, dan, Dayan, Diane, divan, élan, Elan, fan, flan, foreran, Fran, Friedan, Gell-Mann, gran, Han, Hunan, Ivan, Jan, Japan, Jinan, Joanne, Kazan, Klan, Kordofan, Lacan, Lausanne, Leanne, Limousin, Louvain, man, Mann, Marianne, Milan, Moran, nan, Oran, outran, outspan, Pan, panne, parmesan, partisan, pavane, pecan, Pétain, plan, Pusan, ran, rataplan, rattan, Rosanne, Sagan, Saipan, saran, scran, sedan, span, spick-and-span, Spokane, Suzanne, Tainan, tan, than, tisane, trepan, van, vin, Wuhan, Xian, Yerevan, Yunnan, Zhongshan

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Line breaks: scan

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