- 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 spanning
Spanning more than 150 years, the exhibit exhaustively distinguishes designer pieces from licensed copies, adaptations, and fakes.The Big Business of Fashion Counterfeits
December 24, 2014
I found this book made me feel connected to a community of sufferers both real and fictional, spanning centuries.Book Bag: Reading Your Way Out Of Grief
October 16, 2014
The other seven dispensaries, spanning from coast to coast, are death traps for thousands of sea organisms each year.New Report Reveals U.S. Fisheries Killing Thousands of Protected and Endangered Species
March 23, 2014
Deeply ambitious and spanning multiple countries, Touch is an intriguing concept and definitely one to watch for midseason.The 8 Best Pilot Scripts of 2011
May 2, 2011
He confirmed that the studies he and his colleagues examined are now at least 19 years old, spanning from the late 1960s to 1992.Beyond Scared Straight's Real-Life Controversy
February 23, 2011
"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.Carpentry for Boys
J. S. Zerbe
There were various methods proposed for spanning the St. Lawrence.Lives of the Engineers
“If there is width enough,” mused Carrados, spanning the upright critically.Max Carrados
Bridges were crossing the Mississippi and spanning the chasms in the Rocky Mountains.The Iron Puddler
James J. Davis
- 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 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.
Idioms and Phrases with spanning
see spick and span.