Definition of spanner in English:



  • A tool with a shaped opening or jaws for gripping and turning a nut or bolt.

    • ‘Avoid the things he needs - like a new spanner or woollen jumper - and impress him with imagination and flair.’
    • ‘He is friendly with them and once managed to mend a leaking pipe for them with his spanner.’
    • ‘She would be down there with her screwdriver and spanner trying to put the piano together.’
    • ‘If there are any dripping taps then put that spanner that's been lying dormant in the toolbox to work.’
    • ‘I know one particular man who actually got a rowing boat and went across in his dinner hour and welded spanners, wedges and hammers to the bulk head and rowed back again.’
    • ‘Max looked up from the spanner he was calibrating with a small tool.’
    • ‘He collects some other tools, a hammer, nails, spanners, screwdrivers and a few more saw-blades, and slots them into the zippered pouches on his backpack.’
    • ‘Even so, their intervention is a big a spanner in the Compaq takeover works.’
    • ‘The shop guys had screwed the lug nuts down so hard with their no-sweat pneumatic wrenches that my wimpy spanner and all my strength were useless.’
    • ‘The cabbie starts his rickety old taxi with a knock of a spanner.’
    • ‘They hover on the brink of existence in a flat-pack limbo until I can find my adjustable spanner.’
    • ‘Ted's spanner has fixed everything in this town, even record players which don't have any nuts or bolts!’
    • ‘Hand me that number three spanner.’
    • ‘Unless you have pretty particular interests you're probably not going to have much use for a magnifying glass, a spanner or a miniature jig-saw.’
    • ‘A spanner clinked on steel and danced in the ringing shed.’
    • ‘Three young men from Anjanvara wield spanners and engine grease with thinly-veiled pride, mastering a new set of skills.’
    adjustable spanner
    View synonyms


  • a spanner in the works

    • A person or thing that prevents the successful implementation of a plan.

      ‘even the weakest parties can throw a spanner in the works of the negotiations’
      • ‘The plan goes smoothly, but femme fatale Sherry throws a spanner in the works by getting her henchmen to kill everybody.’
      • ‘Someone is trying to throw a spanner in the works but we won't allow them to disrupt the rebuilding job we are doing here.’
      • ‘The convention dictates that there must be a spanner in the works of an otherwise successful relationship, and Kissing Jessica Stein is no different.’
      • ‘Some nimble move by AMD or even IBM could throw another monkey wrench in the works.’
      • ‘So we could all do without any last-minute hitches that could throw a spanner in the works just when we think everything is about to be signed and sealed.’
      interfere, interfere with, hinder, hamper, obstruct, disrupt, impede, inhibit, retard, baulk, thwart, foil, curb, delay, set back, slow down, hold back, hold up
      View synonyms


Late 18th century: from German spannen ‘draw tight’ + -er.