a measure of length, roughly nine inches. Meaning "length of time" first attested 1599; that of "space between abutments of an arch, etc." is from 1725. Meaning "maximum lateral dimension of an aircraft" is first recorded 1909. Attention span is recorded from 1922.
O.E. spannen "to clasp, fasten, stretch, span," from P.Gmc. *spanwanan (cf. O.N. spenna, O.Fris. spanna, M.Du. spannen, O.H.G. spannan, Ger. spannen), from PIE base *(s)pen- "to draw, stretch, spin" (cf. L. pendere "to hang, to cause to hang," pondus "weight" (the weight of a thing measured by how much
it stretches a cord), pensare "to weigh, consider;" Gk. ponein "to toil;" Lith. spendziu "lay a snare;" O.C.S. peti "stretch, strain," pato "fetter," pina "I span;" O.E. spinnan "to spin;" for other cognates, see spin
). The meaning "to encircle with the hand(s)" is from 1781; in the sense of "to form an arch over (something)" it is first recorded 1633. Spanner (1639), the British name for the wrench, is from Ger., originally a tool for winding the spring of a wheel-lock firearm
"two animals driven together," 1769, from Du. span, from spannen "to stretch or yoke," from M.Du. spannen, cognate with O.E. spannen "to join" (see span
O.E. spinnan "draw out and twist fibers into thread," from P.Gmc. *spenwanan (cf. O.N., O.Fris. spinna, Dan. spinde, Du. spinnen, O.H.G. spinnan, Ger. spinnen, Goth. spinnan), from PIE *(s)pen- "stretch" (cf. Armenian henum "I weave," Gk. patos "garment, lit. "that which is spun," Lith. pinu "I plait,
braid," spandau "I spin," M.Welsh cy-ffiniden "spider;" see span
(v.)). Sense of "to cause to turn rapidly" is from 1612; meaning "revolve, turn around rapidly" first recorded 1667. The noun meaning "fairly rapid ride" is from 1856. Meaning "attempt to influence reporters' minds after an event has taken place but before they have written about it" seems to have risen to popularity in the 1984 U.S. presidential campaign; e.g. spin doctor, first attested 1984. Spinning wheel is attested from 1404; spinning-jenny is from 1783 (see jenny
); invented by James Hargreaves c.1764-7, patented 1770. Slang spin off (v.) is from 1957, from the noun phrase, which is first attested 1951, in a corporate sense.