\ ˈspan How to pronounce span (audio) \

Definition of span

 (Entry 1 of 4)

archaic past of spin

Definition of span (Entry 2 of 4)

1 : the distance from the end of the thumb to the end of the little finger of a spread hand also : an English unit of length equal to nine inches (22.9 centimeters)
2 : an extent, stretch, reach, or spread between two limits: such as
a : a limited space (as of time) especially : an individual's lifetime
b : the spread or extent between abutments or supports (as of a bridge) also : a portion thus supported
c : the maximum distance laterally from tip to tip of an airplane


spanned; spanning

Definition of span (Entry 3 of 4)

transitive verb

1a : to measure by or as if by the hand with fingers and thumb extended
2a : to extend across a career that spanned four decades
b : to form an arch over a small bridge spanned the pond
c : to place or construct a span over
3 : to be capable of expressing any element of under given operations a set of vectors that spans a vector space



Definition of span (Entry 4 of 4)

: a pair of animals (such as mules) usually matched in appearance and action and driven together

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Synonyms for span

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of span in a Sentence

Verb His career as a singer spanned three decades. Their empire once spanned several continents. Her academic interests span a wide variety of topics. A bridge spans the river.
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First Known Use of span

Noun (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1560, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1769, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for span

Noun (1)

Middle English, from Old English spann; akin to Old High German spanna span, Middle Dutch spannen to stretch, hitch up


Dutch, from Middle Dutch, from spannen to hitch up

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Time Traveler for span

Time Traveler

The first known use of span was before the 12th century

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Cite this Entry

“Span.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for span



English Language Learners Definition of span

: to continue throughout (a period of time)
: to cover or include (a wide area, a large number of things, etc.)
: to cross over (something)


\ ˈspan How to pronounce span (audio) \

Kids Definition of span

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a limited portion of time span of life I learned to ski in the span of one hour.
2 : the spread (as of an arch or bridge) from one support to another
3 : the width of something from one side to another


spanned; spanning

Kids Definition of span (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to reach or extend across A bridge spans the river.
2 : to continue over a period of time The actor's career spanned five decades.


\ ˈspan How to pronounce span (audio) \

Medical Definition of span

1 : an extent of distance or of time especially : life span

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Comments on span

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