There are 2 definitions of tan in English:


Line breaks: tan


  • 1 [mass noun] A yellowish-brown colour: [as modifier]: she dressed in tan cords
    More example sentences
    • The puppies are both crossbred males, one is black and white and smooth-coated and the other is nearly all black with some tan colouring.
    • They are usually brown, but can vary in colour from light tan to black.
    • She was dressed in tan fishing overalls with a fishing hat, bulky black boots, and a pink T-shirt underneath.
    yellowish-brown, brownish-yellow, light brown, pale brown, tawny
  • 2A golden-brown shade of skin developed by pale-skinned people after exposure to the sun: Jenna managed to get an even golden tan
    More example sentences
    • If you want the golden glow of a tan without exposure to damaging UV light, consider using sunless tanning products or bronzers.
    • Develop golden tans and honour requests for autographs.
    • Flawless skin and a radiant tan are key to complementing the clothing trends for spring and summer 2002.
    become suntanned, take a suntan/tan, brown, go/become brown, bronze
  • 3 (also tanbark) [mass noun] Bark of oak or other trees, bruised and used as a source of tannin for converting hides into leather.
    More example sentences
    • Back in America, Quercus prinus was better known as mountain or rock oak, after its preferred habitat; tanbark oak after its preferred use; and nowadays, chestnut oak after the shape of its leaves.
    • It sniffed at me calmly, gave a canine-style shrug, and disappeared behind tanbark oaks.
    • Should tan bark be laid where leaves fall?
  • 3.1 (also spent tan) Tan from which the tannin has been extracted, used for covering the ground for walking, riding, children’s play, etc., and in gardening.
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    • He held his breath as he positioned himself meticulously in the tanbark, shoelaces of his sneakers quivering.
    • She had stayed away from the sandpit, and the tanbark, and all the play equipment.
    • I grinned broadly and stepped off the footpath, slowly making my way across the grass, stepping into the large wooden-plank-outlined square of tanbark, and heading straight for the swings.

verb (tans, tanning, tanned)

[with object] Back to top  
  • 1 (usually as adjective tanned) (Of the sun) cause (a pale-skinned person) to become brown or browner: he looked tanned and fit
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    • It was a Japanese-American tanned girl with brown eyes, a red spaghetti strap dress with a yellow star and a wand.
    • A few minutes later the door opened and a small, pretty tanned girl with straight brown hair walked in.
    • The chiseled features had always been tanned deeply by the sun.
  • 1.1 [no object] (Of a pale-skinned person) become brown or browner after exposure to the sun: you’ll tan very quickly in the pure air
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    • He had pale skin, but it was March, and even then I understood that people tanned in summer and lost color in winter.
    • In case you are thinking why there is a line above the gstring tanline, I was tanning with a rather high-waist normal bikini bottom at first.
    • Whether you're tanning on the beach or staying cool at the mall, these glosses will be perfect for subtle shine or a high powered sheen.
  • 2Convert (animal skin) into leather by soaking in a liquid containing tannic acid, or by the use of other chemicals: they skin dead animals and tan hides
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    • They also came from the odiferous chemicals used to tan animal hides into leather.
    • On the second night, after a long day spent scraping and stretching and tanning a deer skin, he asked me what I was hiding from.
    • The next day he taught us how to tan the skin, and make weapons and tools from the bones.


North American Back to top  
  • (Of a pale-skinned person) having golden-brown skin after exposure to the sun: she looks tall, tan, and healthy
    More example sentences
    • They were walking home from school, the tan girl on the left and the darker one on the right.
    • She turned and exhaled gratefully as the tan boy with the piercing eyes and spiky hair, stood with his arms crossed in a sarcastic manner behind her.
    • She was a tan girl with sleek dark hair and almond shaped eyes.



More example sentences
  • She is applying some sort of tannish cream to her calf.
  • Her skin is a sort of tannish color like toasted almonds, sort of.
  • Now, with a tiny brush, he smoothed a tannish, powdery substance across his cheekbones.


late Old English tannian 'convert into leather', probably from medieval Latin tannare, perhaps of Celtic origin; reinforced in Middle English by Old French tanner. Early use of the noun (late Middle English) was in sense 3 of the noun.

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