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spanner in the works

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WordReference Random House Learner's Dictionary of American English © 2016
span•ner /ˈspænɚ/USA pronunciation   n. [countable]
  1. a person or thing that spans.
  2. Buildinga wrench having a curved head with a hook or pin at one end for engaging notches or holes in collars, etc.
  3. British Terms[Chiefly Brit.]a wrench, esp. one with fixed jaws.

WordReference Random House Unabridged Dictionary of American English © 2016
span•ner  (spanər),USA pronunciation n. 
  1. a person or thing that spans.
  2. BuildingAlso 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. Cf.  pin wrench. 
  3. British Terms[Chiefly Brit.]a wrench, esp. one with fixed jaws.
  • span1 + -er1 1630–40


Collins Concise English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers::

spanner /ˈspænə/ n
  1. a steel hand tool with a handle carrying jaws or a hole of particular shape designed to grip a nut or bolt head
  2. Brit informal a source of impediment or annoyance (esp in the phrase throw a spanner in the works)
Etymology: 17th Century: from German, from spannen to stretch, span1



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