Printable Version
Pronunciation: spæn-êr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A tool for manipulating nuts and bolts, a wrench (US), 2. A Y-shaped tool with two hooks, holes, or pins at its top ends that fit for twisting a receptive object.

Notes: Here is a widely used English word with definition No. 2, while the first definition is limited to those countries where British English prevails. This word is a lexical orphan.

In Play: wrench A regular spanner is called a "wrench" in America: "To make the working man's toolbox lighter, Hadley invented a one-size-fits-all adjustable spanner." The British correlate to the Americans 'throw a wrench in the works' is 'throw a spanner in the works': "Horace Rumpole will very likely find a way to throw a spanner in the works of this open-and-shut case."

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from German Spanner "tightener", an instrumental noun derived from spannen "to tighten, stretch, span". Spannen comes from Proto-Germanic spannan, which also produced Swedish spänd "tense, tight", Dutch spannen "to tighten" and spinnen "to spin", English, Norwegian, Danish span, and English spin. All these trace their origins back to PIE (s)pen- "to pull, stretch, spin", source also of Armenian henum "I weave" and heni "to act, get tired", Greek ponos "hard work, toil", Lithuanian pìnti "to weave", and Latvian pīt "to weave". (Now a note of thanks to Chris Stewart, a regular contributor from South Africa of fascinating Good Words like today's.)

Dr. Goodword,

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