/span/, n., v., spanned, spanning.n.1. the distance between the tip of the thumb and the tip of the little finger when the hand is fully extended.2. a unit of length corresponding to this distance, commonly taken as 9 in. (23 cm).3. a distance, amount, piece, etc., of this length or of some small extent: a span of lace.4. Civ. Engin., Archit.a. the distance between two supports of a structure.b. the structure so supported.c. the distance or space between two supports of a bridge.5. the full extent, stretch, or reach of anything: a long span of memory.6. Aeron. the distance between the wing tips of an airplane.7. a limited space of time, as the term or period of living: Our span on earth is short.8. Math. the smallest subspace of a vector space that contains a given element or set of elements.v.t.9. to measure by the hand with the thumb and little finger extended.10. to encircle with the hand or hands, as the waist.11. to extend over or across (a section of land, a river, etc.).12. to provide with something that extends over: to span a river with a bridge.13. to extend or reach over (space or time): a memory that spans 90 years.14. Math. to function (in a subspace of a vector space) as a span.15. Archery. to bend (the bow) in preparation for shooting.[bef. 900; (n.) ME spanne, sponne, spayn, OE span(n), spon(n); c. G Spanne, D span, ON sponn; (v.) ME spaynen, deriv. of the n.]span2/span/, n.a pair of horses or other animals harnessed and driven together.span3/span/, v. Archaic.a pt. of spin.
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