from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A wrench having a hook, hole, or pin at the end for meshing with a related device on another object.
  • n. Chiefly British A wrench.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A hand tool for adjusting nuts and bolts.
  • n. One who, or that which, spans.
  • n. A hand tool shaped like a small crank handle, for winding the spring of a wheel lock on a musket.
  • n. A device in early steam engines for moving the valves for the alternate admission and shutting off of the steam.
  • n. A problem, dilemma or obstacle; something unexpected or troublesome (in the phrase spanner in the works)
  • n. A stupid or unintelligent person; one prone to making mistakes, especially in language.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. One who, or that which, spans.
  • n. The lock of a fusee or carbine; also, the fusee or carbine itself.
  • n. An iron instrument having a jaw to fit a nut or the head of a bolt, and used as a lever to turn it with; a wrench; specifically, a wrench for unscrewing or tightening the couplings of hose.
  • n. A contrivance in some of the earlier steam engines for moving the valves for the alternate admission and shutting off of the steam.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. One who or that which spans.
  • n. An instrument for clasping and turning a nut on a screw, or for any similar purpose, as turning the wheel in cocking the old wheel-lock firearms, fastening and unfastening the couplings of fire-hose, etc.; a screw-key or screw-wrench. Spanners are made either with a hole to fit the shape of the nut, as square or hexagonal, or with movable jaws that can be tightened over a nut or a coupling of any shape.
  • n. A cross-brace.
  • n. In the parallel motion of a marine steam-engine, a rod which connects the jointed rods with the radius-bar; also, in some of the earlier engines, the hand-bar or lever by which the valves were moved for the admission and shutting off of the steam.
  • n. A span-worm or looper.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a hand tool that is used to hold or twist a nut or bolt


German, winding tool, from spannen, to stretch, from Middle High German, from Old High German spannan; see (s)pen- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
span +‎ -er (Wiktionary)



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  • Oh. I don't always blend well...

    January 1, 2009

  • Hmm, torsion is torsion, I can't take credit for that one, but your right of course, what I meant was torque.

    January 1, 2009

  • Torsion? Is that a portmanteau of torque and tension?

    January 1, 2009

  • The Spanner (the German term, hence the capitalization) we use to put torsion on the rotator/plug of a lock when picking it is called tension wrench. (I'm a lockpicker.)

    December 30, 2008

  • A wrench. Held by John Lennon on the cover of his book, "Spaniard in the Works."

    December 30, 2008