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spanner in the works

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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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