One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1A Chinese gambling game in which players try to guess the remainder after the banker has divided a number of hidden objects into four groups.
- ‘In the old days the alley resounded to the click of mah-jongg tiles and fan-tan, a gambling game from which it derives its name.’
- ‘Fan Tan is a Chinese gambling game based on guessing the number of beans in a pot.’
2A card game in which players build on sequences of sevens.
- ‘A key rule in Fan Tan is that each player must play if they can. Breaking or even simply forgetting this rule can ruin the game.’
- ‘Fan Tan is a card game that also is known as Card Dominoes, Sevens, and Parliament.’
Late 19th century: from Chinese fān tān, literally ‘repeated divisions’.
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