tr.v. weaned, wean·ing, weans
1. To accustom (the young of a mammal) to take nourishment other than by suckling.
2. To detach gradually from that to which one is strongly habituated or devoted: She weaned herself from cigarettes.
3. To accustom to something from an early age. Often used with on: “The northerners among the refugees ... were weaned on harsh weather and infertile soils and are known for their rigorous work ethic” (Lowell Weiss).
[Middle English wenen, from Old English wenian; see wen-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: In recent years weaned on has come to be widely used in the sense “raised on,” as in Moviegoers weaned on the Star Trek TV series will doubtless find the film to their liking. A few critics have objected to this usage on the grounds that wean refers literally to a detachment from a source of nourishment. But the process of weaning involves a substitution of some other form of nourishment for mother's milk; thus it is sometimes said that a child is weaned onto or on sugar water. Hence a sentence like Paul was weaned on folk music may suggest metaphorically that Paul's exposure to folk music began from the time he stopped nursing, that is, from a very early age.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.