verb (used with object), spanned, span·ning.

Origin of span

before 900; (noun) Middle English spanne, sponne, spayn, Old English span(n), spon(n); cognate with German Spanne, Dutch span, Old Norse spǫnn; (v.) Middle English spaynen, derivative of the noun



verb Archaic.

a simple past tense of spin. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for spanning

traverse, cover, cross, extend, connect, bridge, reach, range, link, vault, arch, ford

Examples from the Web for spanning

Contemporary Examples of spanning

Historical Examples of spanning

  • "I think rickety is just the word," he agreed, spanning a wrist with a finger and thumb.

    Garrison's Finish

    W. B. M. Ferguson

  • A spanning or opening of a frame, and designed to carry the wall above it.

  • There were various methods proposed for spanning the St. Lawrence.

  • “If there is width enough,” mused Carrados, spanning the upright critically.

    Max Carrados

    Ernest Bramah

  • Bridges were crossing the Mississippi and spanning the chasms in the Rocky Mountains.

    The Iron Puddler

    James J. Davis

British Dictionary definitions for spanning




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

verb spans, spanning or spanned (tr)

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

Word Origin for span

Old English spann; related to Old Norse sponn, Old High German spanna




a team of horses or oxen, esp two matched animals

Word Origin for span

C16 (in the sense: yoke): from Middle Dutch: something stretched, from spannen to stretch; see span 1




archaic, or dialect a past tense of spin
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 spanning



"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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with spanning


see spick and span.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.