Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The extent or measure of space between two points or extremities, as of a bridge or roof; the breadth.
  • n. The distance between the tips of the wings of an airplane.
  • n. The section between two intermediate supports of a bridge.
  • n. Something, such as a railroad trestle or bridge, that extends from one point to another.
  • n. The distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger when the hand is fully extended, formerly used as a unit of measure equal to about nine inches (23 centimeters).
  • n. A period of time: a span of life.
  • transitive v. To measure by or as if by the fully extended hand.
  • transitive v. To encircle with the hand or hands in or as if in measuring.
  • transitive v. To extend across in space or time: a bridge that spans the gorge; a career that spanned 40 years.
  • transitive v. To bind or fetter.
  • n. Nautical A stretch of rope made fast at either end.
  • n. A pair of animals, such as oxen, matched in size, strength, or color and driven as a team.
  • v. Archaic A past tense of spin.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The space from the thumb to the end of the little finger when extended; nine inches; eighth of a fathom.
  • n. Hence, a small space or a brief portion of time.
  • n. The spread or extent of an arch or between its abutments, or of a beam, girder, truss, roof, bridge, or the like, between supports.
  • n. The length of a cable, wire, rope, chain between two consecutive supports.
  • n. A rope having its ends made fast so that a purchase can be hooked to the bight; also, a rope made fast in the center so that both ends can be used.
  • n. A pair of horses or other animals driven together; usually, such a pair of horses when similar in color, form, and action.
  • n. the space of all linear combinations of something
  • v. To traverse the distance between.
  • v. To cover or extend over an area or time period.
  • v. to generate an entire space by means of linear combinations
  • v. To be matched, as horses.
  • v. Simple past of spin.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • imp. & p. p. of spin.
  • n. The space from the thumb to the end of the little finger when extended; nine inches; eighth of a fathom.
  • n. Hence, a small space or a brief portion of time.
  • n. The spread or extent of an arch between its abutments, or of a beam, girder, truss, roof, bridge, or the like, between its supports.
  • n. A rope having its ends made fast so that a purchase can be hooked to the bight; also, a rope made fast in the center so that both ends can be used.
  • n. A pair of horses or other animals driven together; usually, such a pair of horses when similar in color, form, and action.
  • transitive v. To measure by the span of the hand with the fingers extended, or with the fingers encompassing the object
  • transitive v. To reach from one side of to the order; to stretch over as an arch.
  • transitive v. To fetter, as a horse; to hobble.
  • intransitive v. To be matched, as horses.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To stretch or spread out; extend in continuity; give extent to.
  • To stretch from side to side or from end to end of; extend over or across; continue through or over the extent of.
  • To make a stretch or reach along, over, or around; measure or cover the span of; grasp; specifically, to measure or encompass with the hand, the little finger and thumb being extended as far as possible: as, to span a stream with a log or a bridge; to span a person's wrist.
  • To cock by the use of a spanner, as a wheellock musket or pistol.
  • Nautical, to confine with ropes: as, to span the booms.
  • To shackle the legs of, as a horse; hobble.
  • To measure off or mark distances from point to point; make distinct stretches in going, as a span-worm or measuring-worm does.
  • To be matched for running in harness; form a span: as, the horses span well.
  • n. The full extent or course over which anything is stretched or prolonged; the space or time covered or included between terminal points; entire reach from end to end or from side to side: as, the span of life; the span of a bridge.
  • n. A part or division of something between terminal points: as, a bridge of ten spans.
  • n. Extent of stretch, physical or mental; distance over which anything may be extended; reach or grasp, as of the memory or of perception.
  • n. As a measure, originally, the extent between the tips of the thumb and little finger when stretched out: the oldest use of the word in English.
  • n. Figuratively, any short space or period'; a brief or limited extent or course; a relatively small measure of continuity.
  • n. The hand with the fingers outspread, as for measuring or for grasping a handful of something.
  • n. Nautical, a rope fastened at both ends so that a purchase may be hooked to its bight; also, a double rope having thimbles attached between its two parts, used as a fair-leader for ropes.
  • n. In the United States (from the original Dutch usage), a pair of horses or mules harnessed together; particularly, a pair of horses usually driven together, or matched for driving or work.
  • n. In South Africa, two or more yokes of oxen or bullocks attached to a wagon or a plow.
  • n. An archaic pretorit of spin.
  • Wholly; entirely; freshly: as, my hands are span clean (sometimes spandy clean).
  • To harness (a horse, etc.) to a vehicle; inspan; furnish (a vehicle) with animals to draw (it).
  • n. In mathematics, the span of a region in any direction is the width of a strip which is bounded by lines perpendicular to that direction, contains every internal point of the region, and has on each of its bounding lines at least one boundary point of the region; and the upper limit of these spans of the region in every direction is called the span.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the distance or interval between two points
  • v. to cover or extend over an area or time period
  • n. a unit of length based on the width of the expanded human hand (usually taken as 9 inches)
  • n. the complete duration of something
  • n. two items of the same kind
  • n. the act of sitting or standing astride
  • n. a structure that allows people or vehicles to cross an obstacle such as a river or canal or railway etc.

Etymologies

Middle English, unit of measurement, from Old English spann; see (s)pen- in Indo-European roots.
Dutch spannen, to harness, from Middle Dutch; see (s)pen- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Old English spann (Wiktionary)
Old English spannan (Wiktionary)
inflected form of spin (Wiktionary)

Examples

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