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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English wenen, from Old English wenian (to accustom; habituate; train; prepare; make fit), from Proto-Germanic *wanjaną (to make wont; accustom), from Proto-Indo-European *wenh₁- (to strive for; wish; love). Cognate with Dutch wennen, German gewöhnen, Danish vænne, Swedish vänja, Icelandic venja. Related via PIE to wone, wont, and wonder, and perhaps win.


  • enPR: wēn, IPA(key): /wiːn/
  • Rhymes: -iːn
  • (file)


wean (third-person singular simple present weans, present participle weaning, simple past and past participle weaned)

  1. (transitive) To cease giving breast milk to an offspring; to accustom and reconcile (a child or young animal) to a want or deprivation of mother's milk; to take from the breast or udder.
    The cow has weaned her calf.
  2. (intransitive) To cease to depend on the mother's milk for nutrition.
    The kittens are finally weaning.
  3. (transitive, by extension, normally "wean off") To cause to quit something to which one is addicted, dependent, or habituated.
    He managed to wean himself off heroin.
    • 1727, Jonathan Swift, (Please provide the book title or journal name)[1]:
      The troubles of age were intended [] to wean us gradually from our fondness of life.
    • March 6, 2017, John Oliver, “Interview with the Dalai Lama”, in Last Week Tonight:
      Dalai Lama: "Then, I suggested, “Drink much less vodka.” Instead of that, they traditionally also drink horse milk—"
      Oliver: "Wait, hold on, you tried to wean them off vodka by giving them horse milk?"
      Dalai Lama: "Oh yes, and they follow."
  4. (intransitive, by extension) To cease to depend.
    She is weaning from her addiction to tobacco.
  5. (transitive, by extension, obsolete) To raise, to help grow toward maturity
Related terms[edit]
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Etymology 2[edit]

Borrowed from Scots wean (literally wee one).


  • IPA(key): /ˈwiː(ə)n/, /ˈweɪ(ə)n/, [weːn]


wean (plural weans)

  1. (Scotland, Ulster) A small child.
    • 1856, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Third Book”, in Aurora Leigh, London: Chapman and Hall, [], published 1857, OCLC 1000396166:
      I, being but a yearling wean.
    • 1902, John Buchan, The Outgoing of the Tide:
      And there were darker tales in the countryside, of weans stolen, of lassies misguided, of innocent beasts cruelly tortured, and in one and all there came in the name of the wife of the Skerburnfoot.
    • 2008, James Kelman, Kieron Smith, Boy[2], Penguin 2009, page 92:
      Pigs, cows and sheep and wee ducks, that was what he bought and it was just for weans and wee lasses. I said it to my maw.
      Oh it is not weans it is children. Oh Kieron, it is children and girls, do not say weans and lasses.


Old English[edit]



wēan m

  1. inflection of wēa:
    1. accusative/genitive/dative singular
    2. nominative/accusative plural



wee +‎ ane



wean (plural weans)

  1. young child


Derived terms[edit]