Meaning of SPAN in English



Etymology: Middle English, from Old English spann


past of spin

II. ˈspan, -paa(ə)n noun

( -s )

Etymology: Middle English spanne, from Old English spann; akin to Old High German spanna span, Old Norse spönn span, spenna to span — more at span III


a. : the distance from the end of the thumb to the end of the little finger of a spread hand ; also : an English unit of length based on this distance equal to 9 inches

b. : the distance between the tips of the middle fingers when the arms are stretched to the side as far as possible from the body

2. : something conceived of as an extent, stretch, reach, or spread between two definite limits: as

a. : a limited often small space

b. : a portion of time ; especially : the period of one's life on earth


a. : the distance between the supports of a transverse structural member or between the abutments of an arch

b. : a transverse member or the part of one which is between structural supports : arch , bridge , truss — see bridge illustration

4. : the amount of material that is grasped and dealt with in a single mental performance

the span of attention

memory span

5. : the maximum distance laterally from tip to tip of an airplane inclusive of ailerons or the lateral dimension of an airfoil — called also spread

III. verb

( spanned ; spanned ; spanning ; spans )

Etymology: Middle English spannen, from Old English spannan; akin to Middle Dutch & Middle Low German spannen to stretch, span, hitch up, fasten, Old High German spannan to stretch, span, Old Norse spenna to span, Latin pendere to weigh, Greek span to draw, pull, tear

transitive verb

1. : to grasp firmly : seize


a. : to measure by or as if by the hand with fingers and thumb extended ; broadly : to measure in any way

watch the stars and your eye consciously spans that distance — James Jones

b. : to encompass with or as if with the fingers

3. obsolete : to set a limit to


a. : to cross or reach over in space : traverse

took us just three minutes to span the bay — Horace Sutton

b. : to extend across in time

his active career … spanned the two decades — Vincent Starrett


a. : to form an arch over : spread, stretch, or extend across from one limit to another

a rainbow spanned the lake — P.B.Shelley

b. : to cover (as a given space between supports) with a transverse member

6. : to spread out : stretch

little paths … with tree roots spanned across them — Katherine Mansfield

7. : to bridge over

a small stream, spanned by several rustic bridges — American Guide Series: Michigan

intransitive verb

1. : to swim along rising to the surface to breathe at more or less regular intervals — used of a whale

2. : to move in the manner of a looper

IV. noun

( -s )

Etymology: of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse spann pail, a measure of butter; akin to Old Norse spenna to span — more at span III

: a unit of measure for butter formerly used in northern Scotland

V. transitive verb

( spanned ; spanned ; spanning ; spans )

Etymology: Dutch spannen to stretch, span, hitch up, from Middle Dutch — more at span III

1. : to stretch or pull tight : draw firmly

he was on his knees … the seat of his trousers perilously spanned — Gladys Schmitt

2. obsolete : to cock with a spanner (as a firearm)

3. : to confine by ropes or other lashings : to attach or fasten — often used with in


[Afrikaans, from Middle Dutch spannen ]

chiefly Africa : to attach (a draft animal) to a vehicle

VI. noun

( -s )

Etymology: Dutch, from Middle Dutch, something stretched, team of animals, from spannen to stretch, span, hitch up — more at span III


a. : a rope having its ends made fast so that a purchase can be hooked to the bight

b. : a rope made fast in the center so that both ends can be used (as with thimbles) as fairleads

c. : a rope made fast or secured between two uprights (as a jumper stay or the rope between davit heads)


a. : a pair of horses, mules, or other animals usually matched in looks and action and driven together


[Afrikaans, from Dutch]

: a team of two or more pairs of oxen or other animals worked or driven together

VII. adverb

Etymology: from span- (as in span-new )

: completely

span white gloves

VIII. transitive verb

: to be capable under given operations of expressing any element of

a set of vectors that spans a vector space

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.