- For an alternative meaning, see Fan (implement).
The term fan refers to someone who has an intense, occasionally overwhelming liking of a person, group of persons, work of art, idea, or trend. The word emerged as an Americanism around 1889, a shortened version of the word fanatic in reference to an enthusiastic follower of a baseball team. (Fanatic itself, introduced into English around 1525, means "insane person". It comes from the Modern Latin fanaticus, meaning "insanely but divinely inspired". The word originally pertained to a temple or sacred place (Latin fanum, poetic English fane). The modern sense of "extremely zealous" dates from around 1647; the use of fanatic as a noun dates from 1650.)
Although modern "fans" sometimes display irrational or uncritical admiration, most resent any association with the more extreme term fanatic.
In trendy speech, fans may coalesce collectively into fandom and even become known as a "fanbase". They may start a fan club, particularly when they are fans of music artists, actors, or television shows. Non-sports fans sometimes self-identify collectively as fen (a neologism). Obsessive nerdy fans may classify as anoraks in British English. Other neologisms and slang terms that came into use in the 20th century include fandom, fanboy, fangirl and fanwork.
When expressing interest in an organized or consistent manner, fans can sometimes effect changes, especially in the media's portrayal of their subject, or in their own subject's behaviour. Some fans enjoy creating fanzines.
When fans write fan mail to the objects of their fanaticism, they expect a positive response; this can create considerable burdens for celebrities, who may react by fostering commercial fan clubs for admirers.
In a few cases, individual fans may become so obsessed with the (presumably human) objects of their infatuation that they become stalkers. Other extreme behaviors exhibited by fans can resemble idolatry or other forms of worship.