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Recorded in Middle English since 1422, from Anglo-Norman espaundre, from Latin expandere present active infinitive of expandō (to spread out), itself from ex- (out, outwards) + pandō (to spread).



expand (third-person singular simple present expands, present participle expanding, simple past and past participle expanded)

  1. (transitive) To change (something) from a smaller form and/or size to a larger one; to spread out or lay open.
    You can expand this compact umbrella to cover a large table.
  2. (transitive) To increase the extent, number, volume or scope of (something).
    A flower expands its leaves.
    • (Can we date this quote?) John Milton
      Then with expanded wings he steers his flight.
  3. (transitive) To express (something) at length and/or in detail.
  4. (transitive, algebra) To rewrite (an expression) as a longer, yet equivalent sum of terms.
    Use the binomial theorem to expand  (x+1)4  to  x4 + 4x3 + 6x2 + 4x + 1.
  5. (transitive, arithmetic) To multiply both the numerator and the denominator of a fraction by the same natural number yielding a fraction of equal value
  6. (intransitive) To (be) change(d) from a smaller form/size to a larger one.
    Many materials expand when heated.
    This compact umbrella expands to cover a large table.
  7. (intransitive) To (be) increase(d) in extent, number, volume or scope.
  8. (intransitive) To speak or write at length or in detail.
    He's so pedantic, he expands on everything!
    • 1899, Stephen Crane, chapter 1, in Twelve O'Clock:
      There was some laughter, and Roddle was left free to expand his ideas on the periodic visits of cowboys to the town. “Mason Rickets, he had ten big punkins a-sittin' in front of his store, an' them fellers from the Upside-down-F ranch shot 'em up […].”
  9. (intransitive) To feel generous or optimistic.


  • (to change from a smaller form/size to a larger one): open out, spread, spread out, unfold
  • (to increase the extent, number, volume or scope of): enlarge
  • (to express at length or in detail): elaborate (on), expand on


  • (to change from a smaller form/size to a larger one): contract
  • (to increase the extent, number, volume or scope of): contract
  • (algebra: to rewrite as an equivalent sum of terms): factor

Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.