\ 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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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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More from Merriam-Webster on span

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for span

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with span

Spanish Central: Translation of span

Nglish: Translation of span for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of span for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about span

Comments on span

What made you want to look up span? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


concealed or difficult to comprehend

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