a person or thing that spans.
Also called spanner wrench. a wrench having a curved head with a hook or pin at one end for engaging notches or holes in collars, certain kinds of nuts, etc.Compare pin wrench.
Chiefly British. a wrench, especially one with fixed jaws.

Origin of spanner

First recorded in 1630–40; span1 + -er1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for spanner

Contemporary Examples of spanner

Historical Examples of spanner

  • You won't wise him up that I threw a spanner into the machinery?

    The Girl on the Boat

    Pelham Grenville Wodehouse

  • It's the servant man looking for a spanner for your father, Miss Mary.

    The Drone

    Rutherford Mayne

  • He jumped at me unexpected when the spanner hit him, and I fell.

  • If you was to put the spanner on the nuts sometimes you wouldnt get half the trouble.

  • Then he picked up a spanner, and unscrewed something, and—off she went!

British Dictionary definitions for spanner



a steel hand tool with a handle carrying jaws or a hole of particular shape designed to grip a nut or bolt head
British informal a source of impediment or annoyance (esp in the phrase throw a spanner in the works)

Word Origin for spanner

C17: from German, from spannen to stretch, span 1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for spanner

1630s, a tool for winding the spring of a wheel-lock firearm, from German Spanner, from spannen (see span (v.)). Meaning "wrench" is from 1790. Figurative phrase spanner in the works attested from 1921 (Wodehouse).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper