- the distance between the tip of the thumb and the tip of the little finger when the hand is fully extended.
- a unit of length corresponding to this distance, commonly taken as 9 inches (23 cm).
- a distance, amount, piece, etc., of this length or of some small extent: a span of lace.
- Civil Engineering, Architecture.
- the distance between two supports of a structure.
- the structure so supported.
- the distance or space between two supports of a bridge.
- the full extent, stretch, or reach of anything: a long span of memory.
- Aeronautics. the distance between the wing tips of an airplane.
- a limited space of time, as the term or period of living: Our span on earth is short.
- Mathematics. the smallest subspace of a vector space that contains a given element or set of elements.
- to measure by the hand with the thumb and little finger extended.
- to encircle with the hand or hands, as the waist.
- to extend over or across (a section of land, a river, etc.).
- to provide with something that extends over: to span a river with a bridge.
- to extend or reach over (space or time): a memory that spans 90 years.
- Mathematics. to function (in a subspace of a vector space) as a span.
- Archery. to bend (the bow) in preparation for shooting.
Origin of span1
- a pair of horses or other animals harnessed and driven together.
Origin of span2
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
- a simple past tense of spin.
- to make (yarn) by drawing out, twisting, and winding fibers: Pioneer women spun yarn on spinning wheels.
- to form (the fibers of any material) into thread or yarn: The machine spins nylon thread.
- (of spiders, silkworms, etc.) to produce (a thread, cobweb, gossamer, silk, etc.) by extruding from the body a long, slender filament of a natural viscous matter that hardens in the air.
- to cause to turn around rapidly, as on an axis; twirl; whirl: to spin a coin on a table.
- Informal. to play (phonograph records): a job spinning records on a radio show.
- Metalworking. to shape (sheet metal) into a hollow, rounded form by pressure from a tool while rotating the metal on a lathe or wheel.
- to produce, fabricate, or evolve in a manner suggestive of spinning thread: to spin a tale of sailing ships and bygone days.
- Rocketry. to cause intentionally (a rocket or guided missile) to undergo a roll.
- to draw out, protract, or prolong (often followed by out): He spun the project out for over three years.
- British. to flunk a student in an examination or a term's work.
- Slang. to cause to have a particular bias; influence in a certain direction: His assignment was to spin the reporters after the president's speech.
- to revolve or rotate rapidly, as the earth or a top.
- to produce a thread from the body, as spiders or silkworms.
- to produce yarn or thread by spinning.
- to move, go, run, ride, or travel rapidly.
- to have a sensation of whirling; reel: My head began to spin and I fainted.
- to fish with a spinning or revolving bait.
- the act of causing a spinning or whirling motion.
- a spinning motion given to a ball, wheel, axle, or other object.
- a downward movement or trend, especially one that is sudden, alarming, etc.: Steel prices went into a spin.
- a rapid run, ride, drive, or the like, as for exercise or enjoyment: They went for a spin in the car.
- Slang. a particular viewpoint or bias, especially in the media; slant: They tried to put a favorable spin on the news coverage of the controversial speech.
- Also called tailspin, tail spin. Aeronautics. a maneuver in which an airplane descends in a vertical direction along a helical path of large pitch and small radius at an angle of attack greater than the critical angle, dangerous when not done intentionally or under control.
- the act of intentionally causing a rocket or guided missile to undergo a roll.
- a roll so caused.
- Also called spin angular momentum. Physics. the intrinsic angular momentum characterizing each kind of elementary particle, having one of the values 0, 1/2, 1/3, … when measured in units of Planck's constant divided by 2π.
- Australian. a run of luck; fate.
- spin off,
- to create something new, as a company or assets, without detracting from or affecting the relative size or stability of the original: After the acquisition, the company was required to spin off about a third of its assets.
- to derive from or base on something done previously: They took the character of the maid and spun off another TV series.
- spin one's wheels. wheel(def 27).
- spin out, (of an automobile) to undergo a spinout.
Origin of spin
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for span
Five times during that span, the majority of species on the planet vanished in a short interval of time.Heed the Warnings: Why We’re on the Brink of Mass Extinction
Sean B. Carroll
November 30, 2014
In battle, it means the ability to shift from suicide bombers to tank columns and maneuver warfare in the span of a day.Has ISIS Peaked as a Military Power?
October 22, 2014
Typically, new equipment is developed in the span of two or three years.Font of Invention
September 18, 2014
And when a comedy produces 238 episodes over the span of 10 years, some of them are bound to be weird.15 Times ‘Friends’ Was Really, Really Weird
September 18, 2014
Ten bridges were closed; the span linking Oakland to the City didn't reopen for more than a month.San Fran Kisses Its 70,000-Person Toilet Goodbye
August 15, 2014
And each of us, in the span of time, has really only a moment among our companions.
I don't know I ever did see the house so spick and span before!Alice Adams
She span round and fell all of a heap upon the tiled flooring.His Masterpiece
What was it to her if the Airly's did keep a span, and drive out every day?The Elm Tree Tales
F. Irene Burge Smith
By quiet indications the bridge would be built and span their lives with beauty.Howards End
E. M. Forster
- the interval, space, or distance between two points, such as the ends of a bridge or arch
- the complete duration or extentthe span of his life
- psychol the amount of material that can be processed in a single mental actapprehension span; span of attention
- short for wingspan
- a unit of length based on the width of an expanded hand, usually taken as nine inches
- to stretch or extend across, over, or around
- to provide with something that extends across or aroundto span a river with a bridge
- to measure or cover, esp with the extended hand
- a team of horses or oxen, esp two matched animals
- archaic, or dialect a past tense of spin
- to rotate or cause to rotate rapidly, as on an axis
- to draw out and twist (natural fibres, as of silk or cotton) into a long continuous thread
- to make such a thread or filament from (synthetic resins, etc), usually by forcing through a nozzle
- (of spiders, silkworms, etc) to form (webs, cocoons, etc) from a silky fibre exuded from the body
- (tr) to shape (metal) into a rounded form on a lathe
- (tr) informal to tell (a tale, story, etc) by drawing it out at great length (esp in the phrase spin a yarn)
- to bowl, pitch, hit, or kick (a ball) so that it rotates in the air and changes direction or speed on bouncing, or (of a ball) to be projected in this way
- (intr) (of wheels) to revolve rapidly without causing propulsion
- to cause (an aircraft) to dive in a spiral descent or (of an aircraft) to dive in a spiral descent
- (intr foll by along) to drive or travel swiftly
- Also: spin-dry (tr) to rotate (clothes) in a washing machine in order to extract surplus water
- (intr) to reel or grow dizzy, as from turning aroundmy head is spinning
- (intr) to fish by drawing a revolving lure through the water
- (intr) informal to present news or information in a way that creates a favourable impression
- a swift rotating motion; instance of spinning
- the intrinsic angular momentum of an elementary particle or atomic nucleus, as distinguished from any angular momentum resulting from its motion
- a quantum number determining values of this angular momentum in units of the Dirac constant, having integral or half-integral valuesSymbol: S, s
- a condition of loss of control of an aircraft or an intentional flight manoeuvre in which the aircraft performs a continuous spiral descent because the angle of maximum lift is less than the angle of incidence
- a spinning motion imparted to a ball, etc
- (in skating) any of various movements involving spinning rapidly on the spot
- informal a short or fast drive, ride, etc, esp in a car, for pleasure
- flat spin informal, mainly British a state of agitation or confusion
- Australian and NZ informal a period of time or an experience; chance or luck; fortunea bad spin
- commerce informal a sudden downward trend in prices, values, etc
- informal the practice of presenting news or information in a way that creates a favourable impression
- on the spin informal one after anotherthey have lost two finals on the spin
Word Origin and History for span
"distance between two objects," Old English span "distance between the thumb and little finger of an extended hand," probably related to Middle Dutch spannen "to join, fasten" (see span (n.2)).
The Germanic word was borrowed into Medieval Latin as spannus, hence Italian spanna, Old French espanne, French empan. As a measure of length, roughly nine inches. Meaning "length of time" first attested 1590s; that of "space between abutments of an arch, etc." is from 1725. Meaning "maximum lateral dimension of an aircraft" is first recorded 1909. Attention span is recorded from 1922.
"two animals driven together," 1769, from Dutch span, from spannen "to stretch or yoke," from Middle Dutch spannen, cognate with Old English spannen "to join" (see span (v.)).
Old English spannen "to clasp, fasten, stretch, span," from Proto-Germanic *spanwanan (cf. Old Norse spenna, Old Frisian spanna, Middle Dutch spannen, Old High German spannan, German spannen), from PIE root *(s)pen- "to draw, stretch, spin" (cf. Latin pendere "to hang, to cause to hang," pondus "weight" (the weight of a thing measured by how much it stretches a cord), pensare "to weigh, consider;" Greek ponein "to toil;" Lithuanian spendziu "lay a snare;" Old Church Slavonic peti "stretch, strain," pato "fetter," pina "I span;" Old English spinnan "to spin;" for other cognates, see spin (v.)). The meaning "to encircle with the hand(s)" is from 1781; in the sense of "to form an arch over (something)" it is first recorded 1630s.
Old English spinnan "draw out and twist fibers into thread," from Proto-Germanic *spenwanan (cf. Old Norse and Old Frisian spinna, Danish spinde, Dutch spinnen, Old High German spinnan, German spinnen, Gothic spinnan), from PIE *(s)pen- "stretch" (cf. Armenian henum "I weave;" Greek patos "garment, literally "that which is spun;" Lithuanian pinu "I plait, braid," spandau "I spin;" Middle Welsh cy-ffiniden "spider;" see span (v.)).
Sense of "to cause to turn rapidly" is from 1610s; meaning "revolve, turn around rapidly" first recorded 1660s. Meaning "attempt to influence reporters' minds after an event has taken place but before they have written about it" seems to have risen to popularity in the 1984 U.S. presidential campaign; e.g. spin doctor, first attested 1984. Spinning wheel is attested from c.1400; spinning-jenny is from 1783 (see jenny); invented by James Hargreaves c.1764-7, patented 1770.
"fairly rapid ride," 1856, from spin (v.).
- The intrinsic angular momentum of a rigid body or particle, especially a subatomic particle. Also called spin angular momentum
- The total angular momentum of a physical system, such as an electron orbital or an atomic nucleus.
- A quantum number expressing spin angular momentum; the actual angular momentum is a quantum number multiplied by Dirac's constant. Fermions have spin values that are integer multiples of 12, while bosons have spin values that are integer multiples of 1.
Idioms and Phrases with span
see spick and span.