- 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 simple past tense of spin.
Examples from the Web for spanned
Twice in our conversations, which spanned two days this past week, the actors started joking about tripping on acid.How Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig Pulled Off Their Most Dramatic Roles Yet
September 12, 2014
Only after the attack occurred did we find out it spanned nearly eight hours.Why Democrats Are So Scared of Benghazi
May 8, 2014
The so-called “cut-outs” are the final chapter in an artistic career which spanned over 50 years.This Summer, Get Thee To London For The RSC’s Henry IV
April 28, 2014
In 2004, she won again for The Aviator, which spanned the first half of the 20th century.Finally! ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ Is Hollywood’s First 1990s Period Piece
December 23, 2013
Her acquaintances—from Noël Coward to Gary Cooper; from Maria Callas to Marilyn Monroe—spanned world wars and continents.Elsa Maxwell, the Kingmaker
November 1, 2012
Headquarters were in the village across the river, spanned by a covered bridge.The Long Roll
Brownsville had the first bridge that spanned the Monongahela River.Watch Yourself Go By
Al. G. Field
With thumb and forefinger I could have spanned the distance between Soissons and Laon.High Adventure
James Norman Hall
The continent had been spanned; the objective had been attained.The American Empire
Below them lay the Crazy Woman, spanned by the Double-draw bridge.Laramie Holds the Range
Frank H. Spearman
- 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
Word Origin and History for spanned
"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.
Idioms and Phrases with spanned
see spick and span.