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From Middle English scannen, for *scanden < Old French escandir (to climb, scan), from Latin scandō (I climb).


  • IPA(key): /skæn/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -æn


scan (third-person singular simple present scans, present participle scanning, simple past and past participle scanned)

  1. To examine sequentially, part by part.
    She scanned the passage carefully but could not find what she was looking for.
    1. (computing) To inspect, analyze or go over, often to find something.
      scan the hard drive for errors
    2. (computing) To perform lexical analysis; to tokenize.
  2. (computing) To create a digital copy of an image using a scanner.
    scan a photograph
    Pencil drawings don't scan very well.
  3. (computing) To read with an electronic device.
    scan a barcode; scan a QR code
  4. To look about for.
    He scanned the horizon.
  5. (poetry) To fit or conform to a specific meter.
    • 1998, Milton Acorn, Cedric Smith, James Deahl, editor, The Road to Charlottetown: A Play[1], UnMon Northland:
      You're right, sir, it doesn't scan very well in the English, but in the Gaelic it's sheer poetry. Have you the Gaelic?
  6. (obsolete) To mount by steps; to go through with step by step.

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scan (plural scans)

  1. An instance of scanning.
    The operators vacated the room during the scan.
  2. The result or output of a scanning process.
    The doctors looked at the scans and made a diagnosis.


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