Main definitions of tan in English

: tan1tan2



  • 1A yellowish-brown color.

    ‘the overall color scheme of tan and cream’
    • ‘These would be pale tan or yellow shirts adorned with the name of one's employer or sponsor on the back.’
    • ‘Reddish brown to yellowish tan, they partly cover themselves with sand or mud to disappear from the view of their unwary prey.’
    • ‘Most yellow or tan types found in grocery and health-food stores are hard to digest and take forever to cook.’
    • ‘I'm convinced she got me addicted to girls with large eyes, hers a sparkling grey/blue nestled amongst long, light tan lashes.’
    • ‘They were dressed in tan and gray short-sleeved uniforms, and they all bore holstered guns.’
    • ‘His face bore no expression whatsoever, he took off his tan coloured sunglasses and revealed dark eyes underneath the lens.’
    • ‘Khaki, beige, tan, black, navy, and gray pants are the best options as these can be worn with pastel and neutral colors.’
    • ‘That tan dress was more than familiar; it was the most beautiful thing I had seen in a while.’
    • ‘He is black and white in colour with a little tan on his face.’
    • ‘Tim, to the uninitiated, may look just like many other tan coloured dogs but that would be an underestimation.’
    • ‘White wedding gowns are still red-hot, but more adventurous brides are bringing in more colour to their gowns, wearing dresses with a tan or beige or pink hue.’
    • ‘We were impressed by the counter itself, plated in copper, which played nicely to the general tan and dark wood colours dominating the room.’
    • ‘They were a tan beige color that was accented by the walls and the carpets with more tan and beige colours.’
    • ‘Available in baby blue and tan - at that price, you can afford both.’
    • ‘The overriding colours are natural hues of tan, brown and olive greens contrasted with a bright white base, to give a soft, earthy look.’
    • ‘I suggest rich colors such as burgundy, black, tan, beige, and dark brown.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Its offices, decorated in shades of pastel yellow and tan, looked perfectly professional - even stylish.’
    yellowish-brown, brownish-yellow, light brown, pale brown, tawny
    View synonyms
  • 2A golden-brown shade of skin developed by pale-skinned people after exposure to the sun.

    • ‘Her nails are short and not in the least scary, there is no electric tan, deathly blonde hair or sticky lipstick.’
    • ‘I mean, I never did get that perfect tan, so unless I invest some hard hours in a tanning booth or something they will never be perfect summer legs.’
    • ‘It was lovely, a nice green colour that would have brought out your tan.’
    • ‘In the pages of every celebrity bible, there seemed to be no escape from her rich walnut tan, flashing diamond knuckledusters and distinctive gravelly features.’
    • ‘Other salons across Scotland are now looking at the technology, which its manufacturers claim is safer than sunbeds and gives a more natural tan.’
    • ‘Most important, I'd like something that does not make me look washed-out or in need of a tan.’
    • ‘You get a half baked tan/sunburn due to being stooped over the shovel or work area, but the 95 degree heat helps sweat off the pounds.’
    • ‘The colour from her tan had all but drained from her, her limbs were heavy and powerless, but she was by no means dead.’
    • ‘It is a busy time for vacation home rentals and theme parks alike, but also an excellent time to work on getting that gorgeous bronzed tan!’
    • ‘If you want the golden glow of a tan without exposure to damaging UV light, consider using sunless tanning products or bronzers.’
    • ‘Later, he would grow a moustache and work on his tan, which is a deep, reddish-bronze colour.’
    • ‘‘I didn't have any expectations,’ he says through a thick Malibu tan.’
    • ‘I got a decent base tan without turning into a blistery tomato.’
    • ‘The holiday photographs show her apparently in the best of health, smiling on the balcony, her skin glowing with a tan.’
    • ‘She recently had her dark hair cut short and now wears it gamine and honey-coloured, which suits her clean bone structure and a light summer tan.’
    • ‘Flawless skin and a radiant tan are key to complementing the clothing trends for spring and summer 2002.’
    • ‘My eldest son's holiday reading was the brand new Harry Potter and, with his sun-streaked hair and mahogany tan, he looked like a local.’
    • ‘And to prove he is a country boy, there is the v-neck open shirt tan.’
    • ‘Develop golden tans and honour requests for autographs.’
    • ‘The solution in the airbrush contains self-tanner, bronzer and a moisturizer, and results in a perfectly even all-over tan.’
    become suntanned, take a suntan, take a tan, brown, become brown, go brown, bronze
    View synonyms
  • 3Bark of oak or other trees, bruised and used as a source of tannin for converting hides into leather.

    • ‘It sniffed at me calmly, gave a canine-style shrug, and disappeared behind tanbark oaks.’
    • ‘Mangroves forests used to be the source of tan bark for the tannin extract industry, while now there is little or no commercial extraction of timber and mangrove wood is widely used locally for fuel, charcoal and for the manufacture of poles and piles.’
    • ‘Should tan bark be laid where leaves fall?’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Peeling tan bark had to take place in the spring time when the tan-oak trees were full of sap.’
    1. 3.1 Bark from which the tannin has been extracted, used for covering the ground for walking, riding, playgrounds, etc., and in gardening.
      • ‘The original tannery with its vats, bark mill and heaps of spent tan was located between the homestead and the building to the north.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This has not lessened the popularity of spent tanbark as a ground covering in such places as circus arenas, horse tracks, and children's playgrounds.’


  • 1no object (of a pale-skinned person or their skin) become brown or browner after exposure to the sun.

    ‘you'll tan very quickly in the pure air’
    • ‘They sat tanning for a while and gossiping about everything, but mostly the boys.’
    • ‘She and I, we're lying on our towels, mostly talking but also kind of tanning, because she claims she's actually tanning and not burning for once.’
    • ‘People I know who go tanning, tan a lot, and they look tan all the time, even if it's, like, January.’
    • ‘They were eligible for the study if they had very pale skin and on history were unable to tan despite exposure to sunlight.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘As time passed, we realized that, unlike the others, I did not tan.’
    • ‘If these critters are a problem I cover up, if not I wear shorts and short sleeve shirts with lots of P20 once a day sun filter, you will tan without burning.’
    • ‘I don't tan easily, but all those days outdoors had weathered me, and given me restless nights suffering from sunburn.’
    • ‘If you love the sun, you can tan with a Playboy bunny sticker near your bikini line.’
    • ‘They were tanning while relaxing in the warm bubbly Jacuzzi at Beaches Sandy Bay.’
    • ‘For a fixed monthly price, you can tan as much as you want.’
    • ‘They were in the pool drinking beer and the other girls were tanning.’
    • ‘Every day was sunny and, despite being blonde, I do tan.’
    • ‘He had pale skin, but it was March, and even then I understood that people tanned in summer and lost color in winter.’
    • ‘She was lying on her back, trying to tan away the line from her shorts that she got during cheer practice.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She doesn't tan easily; her skin is rather fair for someone who spends so much time outdoors.’
    • ‘As I was tanning, some random guy came up and talked to me.’
    • ‘She tipped her sunglasses and looked at me sternly from the pool deck where she was tanning.’
    • ‘I don't burn either, which is nice, but even if I spend eight hours under the Mediterranean sun, I don't tan.’
    1. 1.1usually as adjective tannedwith object (of the sun) cause (a pale-skinned person or their skin) to become brown or browner.
      ‘he looked tanned and fit’
      • ‘He's tanned, fit and blessed, with a full thatch of light-brown hair.’
      • ‘He was tanned from swimming in the outdoor pools.’
      • ‘She doesn't wear sunblock, and she's deeply tanned.’
      • ‘Photographs of him at the time show he had striking good looks - he was tanned, with a head of thick black hair, well-built and fit.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He has short brown hair, he's tanned and he has sky blue eyes, and everyone loves him.’
      • ‘The children were tanned from free play in the sun.’
      • ‘He was lightly tanned and the shade fit him perfectly.’
      • ‘She was more tanned, the southern sun brightening her skin.’
      • ‘It was a Japanese-American tanned girl with brown eyes, a red spaghetti strap dress with a yellow star and a wand.’
      • ‘He is tanned in appearance and has slightly long, dark hair.’
      • ‘She is tanned and curvy, with long, wavy, blonde hair.’
      • ‘He was naturally tanned, had really dark brown hair and deep hazel eyes.’
      • ‘The other man was tanned, about 5ft 10 in, with short brown hair, possibly with a pierced left eyebrow.’
      • ‘She was deeply tanned from the desert, and her deep brown skin seemed almost black against the soft white linen.’
      • ‘Her younger and less tanned sister had her shoulder length brown hair braided.’
      • ‘He was tanned and his unruly hair hung just above his eyes.’
      • ‘His hair was light brown, his skin tanned, and his body as healthy as could be.’
      • ‘Suddenly a fit, tanned surfer with a slouching hat appears with his dog between the palm trees welcoming the arriving guests.’
  • 2with object Convert (animal skin) into leather by soaking in a liquid containing tannic acid, or by the use of other chemicals.

    • ‘It had fresco brick wall sides peaking upward as if inside a tent, there were tanned pelts of animal skins as tapestries on the wall.’
    • ‘As for the rabbit skins, we are tanning the hides to make decorator rugs for our home, using the recipe from another issue of the magazine.’
    • ‘Variations of these methods are still used by do-it-yourself outdoorsmen to tan hides.’
    • ‘Aside from doing taxidermy he also tans crocodile hide using a 2500-year-old rainforest bark method.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Over saturation curls the skin and tans the hide’
    • ‘Ostrich skins were tanned and made into boots, coats, wallets.’
    • ‘Deer hides and small fur skins can be tanned at home through a variety of techniques.’
    • ‘The next day he taught us how to tan the skin, and make weapons and tools from the bones.’
    • ‘Or perhaps you require chemicals with which to tan leather?’
    • ‘They also came from the odiferous chemicals used to tan animal hides into leather.’
    • ‘If you do not plan to tan the hide immediately after skinning it, remove as much of the flesh, fat, membranous tissue as possible.’
  • 3dated, informal with object Beat (someone) repeatedly, especially as a punishment.

    ‘“If Mickey touches a fishing net, I'll tan his hide!”’
    • ‘Everyone in the village did, or taught them, or tanned their hides for stealing apples.’
    • ‘My father would have tanned my hide if I pulled a stunt like that.’
    • ‘ you really think that your strength and your ability to tan the hide of a child is going to teach them respect?’
    • ‘Gimme any more lip and I'll tan your hide for all to see.’
    thrash, beat, wallop, belt, strap, spank, whip, lash, leather, cane, flog, flail, flagellate, horsewhip, birch, switch, flay
    View synonyms


North American
  • 1Of a yellowish-brown color.

    ‘a tan baseball cap with orange piping’
    • ‘He was wearing tan slacks and a shirt that brought out the color in his green eyes.’
    • ‘The office walls were plain white and the carpet was a generic tan color.’
    • ‘The walls were painted a creamy tan color and along the walls were many different pictures of streets in many different countries and cities.’
    • ‘The carpet was a tan color and was crusty in some spots.’
    • ‘She wears a tan baseball cap and a short-sleeved striped shirt.’
    1. 1.1 (of a pale-skinned person) having golden-brown skin after exposure to the sun.
      ‘she looks tall, tan, and healthy’
      • ‘He was slightly tan and wore all black with a long cape that reached the ground.’
      • ‘They were walking home from school, the tan girl on the left and the darker one on the right.’
      • ‘She could feel her cheeks flushing and prayed that she was tan enough to hide the blush slightly.’
      • ‘He was fairly tan and well-built wearing black jeans, red converses, and a black T with Marilyn Monroe on the front.’
      • ‘Plus, I now have funny tan lines - I was out with my exercise pants and a jog bra so my arms, chest, feet and face are tan.’
      • ‘But they were all tan, and clean-shaven, and had the most beautifully sculpted bodies.’
      • ‘He was fairly tan and obviously from a state that was the complete opposite of Massachusetts.’
      • ‘She had the perfect body type, and she was quite tan with dark hair.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I was naturally tan also, mostly handed down from my mother.’
      • ‘He was tan and muscular and had dark brown hair and bright blue eyes.’
      • ‘She was a tan girl with sleek dark hair and almond shaped eyes.’
      • ‘A tall, handsome, tan boy walked down the aisles in the supermarket.’
      • ‘He was relatively tan, and because he was shirtless, I could perfectly make out his lean physique.’
      • ‘I took off my clothes and found that my skin was a pale sort of tan with a tint of dirt.’
      • ‘He had dark brown hair, clear green eyes, an amazing smile, and he was very tan.’
      • ‘She was tan and athletic, and I could tell she had been a rebel for quite some time.’
      • ‘Sunscreen doesn't prevent you from getting tan; it blocks out the harmful rays.’
      • ‘Touching her face, which was tan from being outside so much, and lips which were a bit parched from the sun, she furrowed her brow in thought.’
      • ‘Their ideal boy was blond, tan, impeccably dressed, and sensitive.’


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 tan (sense 3 of the noun).




Main definitions of tan in English

: tan1tan2


  • Tangent.