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From Biology-Online Dictionary | Biology-Online Dictionary
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The front of an army; the first line or leading column; also, the front line or foremost division of a fleet, either in sailing or in battle. Standards and gonfalons, twixt van and rear, stream in the air. (milton)

Origin: Abbrev. Fr. Vanguard.

1. A fan or other contrivance, as a sieve, for winnowing grain.

2. [OF. Vanne, F. Vanneau beam feather (cf. It. Vanno a wing) fr. L. Vannus. See etymology above] A wing with which the air is beaten. [/Angels] on the air plumy vans received him. He wheeled in air, and stretched his vans in vain; His vans no longer could his flight sustain. (Dryden)

Origin: L. Vannus a van, or fan for winnowing grain: cf. F. Van. Cf. Fan, Van a wing Winnow.

(Science: chemical) A shovel used in cleansing ore.

Origin: Cornish.

(Science: chemical) To wash or cleanse, as a small portion of ore, on a shovel.