• (RP, America)
  • (Australian English)

span (plural spans)

  1. The space from the thumb to the end of the little finger when extended; nine inches; an eighth of a fathom.
  2. (by extension) A small space or a brief portion of time.
    He has a short attention span and gets bored within minutes.
    • 1738, Alexander Pope, The Universal Prayer:
      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,
  3. A portion of something by length; a subsequence.
    • 2004, Robert Harris, ‎Robert Warner, The Definitive Guide to SWT and JFace (page 759)
      For example, in or Microsoft Word, each span of text can have a style that defines key characteristics about the text: • What font it uses • Whether it's normal, bolded, italicized, […]
  4. (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.
  5. (architecture, construction) The length of a cable, wire, rope, chain between two consecutive supports.
  6. (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.
  7. (US, Canada) A pair of horses or other animals driven together; usually, such a pair of horses when similar in color, form, and action.
  8. (mathematics) The space of all linear combinations of something.
Translations Translations Translations Translations
  • Russian: пролёт
  • Portuguese: espaço gerado
  • (RP) and GenAm

span (spans, present participle spanning; past and past participle spanned)

  1. (transitive) To extend through the distance between or across.
    The suspension bridge spanned the canyon.
    • The rivers were spanned by arches of solid masonry.
  2. (transitive) To extend through (a time period).
    The parking lot spans three acres.
    The novel spans three centuries.
  3. (transitive) 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.
  4. (mathematics) To generate an entire space by means of linear combinations.
  5. (intransitive, US, dated) To be matched, as horses.
  6. (transitive) To fetter, as a horse; to hobble.
Translations Translations Pronunciation
  • (RP, Australia, America) IPA: /spæn/
  1. (archaic, nonstandard) simple past tense of spin
    • 1891, H[enry] Rider Haggard, “How Hall of Lithdale Took Tidings to Iceland”, in Eric Brighteyes, 2nd edition, London: Longmans, Green, and Co., OCLC 935241280 ↗, page 204 ↗:
      So they went in to where Gudruda sat spinning in the hall, singing as she span.

Proper noun
  1. Acronym of Suicide Prevention Advocacy Network
  2. (computing) Acronym of Switched Port Analyzer, a Cisco technology

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