Definition of scan in English:



  • 1Look at all parts of (something) carefully in order to detect some feature.

    ‘he raised his binoculars to scan the coast’
    • ‘Tom frowned, pulled out a powerful pair of binoculars, and scanned the field of view.’
    • ‘They began scanning the area carefully, taking in every detail and watching for the slightest movement.’
    • ‘Only the tourist police, sitting inscrutably astride their camels and scanning the scene through binoculars, seem to act as a deterrent.’
    • ‘Rick impatiently checked his watch and scanned the whole resort and the parking lot.’
    • ‘The dwarf was bent over, carefully scanning the ground.’
    • ‘A policeman scanned the protest through binoculars, but didn't try to stop it.’
    • ‘As we make our way to bed, we watch our backs, scanning our surroundings for heretofore unnoticed surveillance.’
    • ‘From our vantage point, we could see men walking the streets, men on top of buildings, scanning the area with binoculars.’
    • ‘Octavia watched carefully as Gia scanned the room searching for the source of the problem.’
    • ‘Thelma stayed in the stern, scanning the iceberg with binoculars, as we motored away.’
    • ‘His stare was more focused and he scanned the room carefully.’
    • ‘I release her and hold her at arms length, carefully scanning her face, which is expressionless.’
    • ‘I walked down the sidewalk carefully, alert and scanning the area with each step.’
    • ‘You spend most of your time scanning boats through binoculars, searching out design faults and lapses in taste.’
    • ‘Matthew's eyes studied me carefully, scanning my face.’
    • ‘One again she got out her binoculars and began scanning the beach.’
    • ‘Instead, he saw the men walking calmly, saw them carefully scanning the terrain ahead of them, muskets ready to fire.’
    • ‘She carefully scanned the area, searching for anything resembling a ventilation shaft.’
    • ‘Clara watched the four birds carefully, then scanned the yard.’
    • ‘He tilted his head slightly, scanning his surroundings carefully.’
    study, examine, scrutinize, inspect, survey, search, scour, sweep, rake
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    1. 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’
      • ‘She laughed and reached down to pick it up, her eyes quickly scanning the page.’
      • ‘Claudia slipped the order from his hand and unrolled it, her eyes scanning the document quickly.’
      • ‘After ordering a few drinks from the bar we quickly scanned the menu.’
      • ‘He looked over at the old notebook and flipped through the pages nonchalantly, eyes scanning each page quickly as though they contained some secret.’
      • ‘So he slowly opened the new book, his eyes quickly scanning the page.’
      • ‘He quickly scanned the page and found what he was looking for.’
      • ‘Growling irritably to himself, he quickly scanned through a few pages of the history tomes and documents but they proved to be dry streams.’
      • ‘She straightened out the folded papers and scanned the letter.’
      • ‘She scanned through it quickly before reaching the point that she had been looking for.’
      • ‘Oblivious, Sam paused to quickly scan the print-outs and spiky, almost illegible handwritten notes strewn around the room.’
      • ‘He was up a lot earlier that morning, quickly scanning the newspaper as he drank some coffee in the kitchen.’
      • ‘The pages fell lightly open and Warren quickly scanned through them.’
      • ‘Amy took the paper from Ruth, scanning the first page.’
      • ‘He scanned through the words quickly, his eyes widening as they took in the message.’
      • ‘The technician looked over it thoroughly, scanning the entire page twice.’
      • ‘The nurse scanned through the information on her computer and pursed her lips as she read the list of patients.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘Columns, marble, balance, colonnades, the girl thought, as she scanned through her paper.’
      • ‘The judge scanned through the papers, and then handed them back to the lawyer.’
      • ‘Ellie rolled her eyes, unfolding her paper and scanning the headlines.’
      glance over, glance through, look over, look through, have a look at, cast one's eye over, pass one's eye over, run one's eye over, skim, flick through, flip through, riffle through, leaf through, thumb through, read quickly, browse through
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  • 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’
    • ‘The two of them made their way to a smaller tunnel that scanned their bodies as they walked through it, a red beam of light passing up and down their bodies.’
    • ‘The stand-alone equipment is much like a metal detector in an airport: it scans the entire body.’
    • ‘You were scanned for any electronics when you came groundside.’
    • ‘While their brain activity was being scanned, subjects performed an emotion matching task known to activate the amygdala.’
    • ‘The researchers scanned the same 13 healthy children and teens every two years as they grew up, for 10 years.’
    • ‘Another one said, ‘We can scan the body completely and find moles that may not be visible to the naked eye.’’
    • ‘The latest on test is a handheld device that scans the surface temperature from the forehead to the temple and takes the high point as the temperature over the temporal artery.’
    • ‘By using more than one lens when it scans surfaces, the imager divides the spectrum of visible light into four sections.’
    • ‘He scanned her body further and found that the device was in the pocket of her jacket.’
    • ‘Nowadays the x-ray tube rotates around the person and scans the body.’
    • ‘The radar scans the ground on each side of the aircraft as the aircraft flies over the area of operations.’
    • ‘Desktops and other immediately visible surfaces were scanned for errant spoons.’
    • ‘The MRI scans the body without using radiation and can show the difference between a tumour and a cyst or abscess without the need for invasive surgery.’
    • ‘We do have a very accurate way of diagnosing aneurysms, ultrasound scanning, so why aren't we scanning everyone?’
    • ‘At Singapore's Changi International Airport it has been adapted for use in the war on SARS, to scan human bodies for high temperatures.’
    • ‘Researchers looking into the problem have told Scotland on Sunday that metal detectors might have to be used to scan bodies before they are cast into the flames.’
    • ‘The procedure is likely to take at least one hour, depending on which part of the body is being scanned.’
    • ‘DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) uses a very low-dose X-ray to scan your body.’
    • ‘How you prepare for a CT exam depends on which part of your body is being scanned.’
    • ‘Pregnant women can be scanned, although preferably not in the first trimester.’
    1. 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. 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’
      • ‘The documents were eventually scanned into a computer for cross-referencing.’
      • ‘It can cut hours off the time required for a missing person search by allowing family photos to be scanned and transmitted from a family home and flashed within seconds to hundreds of officers.’
      • ‘Once the painting has been scanned, a technician works to make the color of the reproduction come as close as possible to the actual painting.’
      • ‘When the pictures get developed, I'm pleading for Bri's mom scan me that picture with her and Josh.’
      • ‘Today, a picture can be scanned into a computer and sent around the world within minutes.’
      • ‘I had to scan the Latermore pictures before tomorrow but all I had on my mind was Daniel.’
      • ‘Rather, they are cutting, pasting or scanning pictures that others have taken.’
      • ‘He scanned the picture of a monkey from an antique biology sketchbook and digitally manipulated it with other graphic elements.’
      • ‘Pictures can be scanned and originals returned if people considering donating such items wish to retain such photographs.’
      • ‘For those without the magazine, I have scanned the pictures here for you.’
      • ‘Documents are scanned into the system then the document imaging system stores them somewhere on a hard drive or optical disk.’
      • ‘There is software available that allows home owners to scan in a picture of their home and then try out different colors without making an actual commitment.’
      • ‘Even those poor photos from by-gone years can be scanned and manipulated.’
      • ‘These photos are scanned into a computer and turned into the shadowy cutout figures that will appear suspended in the colored fields.’
      • ‘First, a photograph, whether print or slide, is scanned into a digital image file.’
      • ‘At Yumeta, pencil sketches are scanned into a computer, then a technician adds color digitally.’
      • ‘To the surprise of everyone, two high quality colour photographs had been scanned and delivered in floppies for publication.’
      • ‘The cartoons I prepare today are still hand drawn, but are scanned into my computer.’
      • ‘The drawing is scanned into a computer in order to digitise the data contained in the drawing.’
      • ‘Four years ago he began scanning some of his paintings, just to create an archival record.’
    3. 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.

    • ‘By the end of the term, several students still could not scan a basic line or write in metre.’
    1. 3.1[no object](of verse) conform to metrical principles.
      ‘well, it doesn't rhyme and certainly doesn't scan’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘Whatever you tried to do, there was a bar that didn't scan, a couplet that you just couldn't find a rhyme for.’
      • ‘The lyrics didn't always scan, but they always seemed to make sense.’


  • 1An act of scanning someone or something.

    ‘a quick scan of the sports page’
    • ‘A quick scan around the room told me the problem.’
    • ‘A quick scan told me all that I needed to know, and - wincing - I tossed the envelope and its contents down on the desktop.’
    • ‘A quick scan of the terrain on Monday revealed very few skaters wearing helmets - including the pro skaters themselves.’
    • ‘A quick scan of internet offerings shows the depth and breath of choices available.’
    • ‘But a quick scan through the months in the calendar has revealed a few little errors.’
    • ‘When we got there, I took a quick scan of the area.’
    • ‘A quick scan of the room proved that I was in a bedroom.’
    • ‘After a quick scan, I found Lara and made my way over to her.’
    • ‘A quick scan of the area revealed her mother, who, not surprisingly, was indulging in exactly the same type of behavior.’
    • ‘For me this means shirts, shoes, undergarments, and a quick scan of the jackets on the way out.’
    • ‘A quick scan of the auditorium is all that is needed to see if anyone remains seated when everyone is supposed to be standing.’
    • ‘A quick scan reveals all 10 little piggies, with no unsightly bunions or hammer toes.’
    • ‘Drake's eyes made a quick scan of the alley to ensure that no other threat lurked nearby, then his gaze returned to the man.’
    • ‘Roger, 41, knows he has what it takes to play the suave action hero, as a quick scan of his CV proves.’
    • ‘A quick scan down today's e-mail is all it takes to determine your position.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A quick scan of the shelves and I was a little girl back in Leyland in the sweet shop near the end of our street.’
    • ‘A quick scan of the crowd told her that the renovations had attracted people from all over, and that it was still a hangout for the high school kids as well as adults.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Labs are said to be located in the Netherlands-Belgium area, but a quick scan of media on the Web shows that labs also appear in many other locations.’
    inspection, scrutiny, examination, survey, search
    glance, look, flick, browse, skim
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  • 2A medical examination using a scanner.

    ‘a brain scan’
    • ‘Films that were not interpreted by emergency physicians, such as specialised scans, ultrasound scans, and intravenous pyelogram studies, were not included in the data.’
    • ‘Ultrasound scans of the brains of all of our patients were normal, and so was cranial computed tomography in two and magnetic resonance imaging in one.’
    • ‘He had seen his family doctor, osteopaths, orthopaedic surgeons, and physiotherapists, had many scans, tried many medications, collars, and even considered suicide.’
    • ‘We redetermine the role of symptoms and serum concentrations in detecting bony metastases in lung cancer and reassess the accuracy of bone scans for screening.’
    • ‘So after one radiograph, one ultrasound, two scans, and many blood tests, we finally send her home with a diagnosis of… pain.’
    • ‘All radiographs and bone scans were interpreted by staff who were unaware of treatment allocation.’
    • ‘If it is not robust, then any observed correlation with apparent abnormal brain scans is medically meaningless.’
    • ‘The diagnosis can be confirmed with a bone scan, and treatment consists of intravenous antibiotics and surgical drainage.’
    • ‘Repeat films are usually required, and a bone scan or magnetic resonance imaging if there is doubt.’
    • ‘It was some days before the medical staff arranged a scan, only to discover that the inmate had been carrying twins and had lost only one.’
    • ‘Other possible tests include bone and ultrasound scans.’
    • ‘A nuclear bone scan and magnetic resonance imaging of the spine confirmed compression fractures of those two vertebra.’
    • ‘Other tests that can help us include a head scan, a thorough medical and family history, and a physical exam.’
    • ‘Confirmation of a stress fracture is best made using triple phase nuclear medicine bone scan or magnetic resonance imaging.’
    • ‘Routine surveillance using bone scans, chest radiographs, and blood tests for tumor markers is not recommended.’
    • ‘An MRI scan of the brain demonstrated cerebellar atrophy.’
    • ‘However, the fMRI scans revealed different brain activation patterns between the two groups.’
    • ‘Early diagnosis, including a brain scan, and treatment in a specialist hospital based stroke unit have been shown to be effective in improving outcomes.’
    • ‘Do see a neurologist for a complete check-up including a CT scan of the brain, as a headache is also a symptom of more serious brain disorders.’
    • ‘Occasionally, a blood test, bone scan or magnetic resonance imaging exam also may be necessary.’
    examination, screening
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    1. 2.1An image obtained by scanning or with a scanner.
      ‘you can't predict anything until he has seen the scan’
      • ‘According to Dennis Elliott, marketing director at Kolibri Art Studio, a technician first makes a digital scan of the image to be reproduced.’


Late Middle English (as a verb in scan): 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).