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span 1 (spăn)
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n.
1. The extent or measure of space between two points or extremities, as of a bridge or roof; the breadth.
2. The distance between the tips of the wings of an airplane.
3. The section between two abutments or piers of a bridge.
4. Something, such as a railroad trestle or bridge, that extends from one point to another.
5. The distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger when the hand is fully extended, formerly used as a unit of measure equal to about 9 inches (23 centimeters).
6. A period of time: a span of life.
tr.v. spanned, span·ning, spans
1. To extend across in space or time: a bridge that spans the gorge; a career that spanned 40 years.
2. To encircle or cover with the hand or hands.
3. To measure in spans.

[Middle English, unit of measurement, from Old English spann; see (s)pen- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
span 2 (spăn)
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n.
1. Nautical A stretch of rope made fast at either end.
2. A pair of animals, such as oxen, matched as in size or color and driven as a team.

[Dutch, from spannen, to harness, from Middle Dutch; see (s)pen- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
span 3 (spăn)
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v.
Archaic
A past tense of spin.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
Span.
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abbr.
Spanish

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.

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