From Middle English spanne, from Old English spann, from Proto-Germanic *spannō (“span, handbreadth”). Compare also Old English ġespan, ġespann (“a joining; a fastening together; clasp; yoke”), from Proto-Germanic *spannaz.
- (Received Pronunciation, General American)
Audio (US) (file)
- Rhymes: -æn
- (Australian English)
span (plural spans)
- The space from the thumb to the end of the little finger when extended; nine inches; eighth of a fathom.
- (by extension) A small space or a brief portion of time.
- He has a short attention span and gets bored within minutes.
- Alexander Pope
- Yet not to earth's contracted span / Thy goodness let me bound.
- Life's but a span; I'll every inch enjoy.
- 2007. Zerzan, John. Silence.
- The unsilent present is a time of evaporating attention spans,
- (architecture, construction) The spread or extent of an arch or between its abutments, or of a beam, girder, truss, roof, bridge, or the like, between supports.
- (architecture, construction) The length of a cable, wire, rope, chain between two consecutive supports.
- (nautical) 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.
- (US, Canada) A pair of horses or other animals driven together; usually, such a pair of horses when similar in color, form, and action.
- (mathematics) The space of all linear combinations of something.
- To traverse the distance between.
- The suspension bridge spanned the canyon as tenuously as one could imagine.
- To cover or extend over an area or time period.
- The parking lot spans three acres.
- The novel spans three centuries.
- World record! 5 GHz WiFi connection spans 189 miles. 
- The rivers were spanned by arches of solid masonry.
- To measure by the span of the hand with the fingers extended, or with the fingers encompassing the object.
- to span a space or distance; to span a cylinder
- Bible, Isa. xiviii. 13
- My right hand hath spanned the heavens.
- (mathematics) to generate an entire space by means of linear combinations
- (intransitive, US, dated) To be matched, as horses.
- To fetter, as a horse; to hobble.
- (archaic, nonstandard) simple past tense of
- 2014 September 29, Reuters, “Five spectators in critical condition following stunt truck accident”, in Irish Independent:
- a giant pick-up truck span out of control during a stunt show in a Dutch town, killing three people
From older gespan.
- A span, a team (pair or larger team of draught animals). [from 17th c.]
- A cart or instrument with a team of draught animals. [from 18th c.]
- A romantic pair, couple. [from 19th c.]
- Afrikaans: span
See the etymology of the main entry.
- Alternative form of