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[span-er] /ˈspæn ər/
a person or thing that spans.
Also called spanner wrench. a wrench having a curved head with a hook or pin at one end for engaging notches or holes in collars, certain kinds of nuts, etc.
Compare pin wrench.
Chiefly British. a wrench, especially one with fixed jaws.
Origin of spanner
1630-40; span1 + -er1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for spanner
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Alison disappeared into the stable and came back with the spanner in her hand.

    A Prairie Courtship Harold Bindloss
  • You won't wise him up that I threw a spanner into the machinery?

    The Girl on the Boat Pelham Grenville Wodehouse
  • At this the man straightened himself up, dropping a spanner he had been using, and faced us; but he trembled in all his limbs.

    A Set of Six Joseph Conrad
  • It's the servant man looking for a spanner for your father, Miss Mary.

    The Drone Rutherford Mayne
  • The boys saw the spanner fall from his upraised hand and tumble with a clatter at his feet.

  • He jumped at me unexpected when the spanner hit him, and I fell.

    Prescott of Saskatchewan Harold Bindloss
  • No matter how much of a twitter he was in, he should have had sense enough to see that he was throwing a spanner into the works.

    Right Ho, Jeeves P. G. Wodehouse
  • If you was to put the spanner on the nuts sometimes you wouldnt get half the trouble.

    Life in a Railway Factory Alfred Williams
  • Diving down the engineroom ladder, I find Mr. Crafter frantically tugging with a spanner at a refractory nut.

    From Chart House to Bush Hut Charles W. L. Bryde
British Dictionary definitions for spanner


a steel hand tool with a handle carrying jaws or a hole of particular shape designed to grip a nut or bolt head
(Brit, informal) a source of impediment or annoyance (esp in the phrase throw a spanner in the works)
Word Origin
C17: from German, from spannen to stretch, span1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for spanner

1630s, a tool for winding the spring of a wheel-lock firearm, from German Spanner, from spannen (see span (v.)). Meaning "wrench" is from 1790. Figurative phrase spanner in the works attested from 1921 (Wodehouse).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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