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From Anglo-Norman space, variant of espace, espas et al., and Old French spaze, variant of espace, from Latin spatium, from Proto-Indo-European ( > speed).



space (countable and uncountable, plural spaces)

  1. Of time.
    1. (now rare, archaic) Free time; leisure, opportunity. [from 14th c.]
      • 1616, William Shakespeare, All's Well that Ends Well:
        Come on, thou are granted space.
      • 1793, Henry Boyd, "The Royal Message", Poems:
        In two days hence / The judge of life and death ascends his seat. / —This will afford him space to reach the camp [...].
    2. A specific (specified) period of time. [from 14th c.]
      • 1893, Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman, Giles Corey:
        I pray you, sirs, to take some cheers the while I go for a moment's space to my poor afflicted child.
      • 2007, Andy Bull, The Guardian, 20 Oct 2007:
        The match was lost, though, in the space of just twenty minutes or so.
      • 2011 September 29, Jon Smith, “Tottenham 3 - 1 Shamrock Rovers”, BBC Sport:
        But their lead lasted just 10 minutes before Roman Pavlyuchenko and Jermain Defoe both headed home in the space of two minutes to wrestle back control.
    3. An undefined period of time (without qualifier, especially a short period); a while. [from 15th c.]
      • 1923, PG Wodehouse, Inimitable Jeeves:
        Even Comrade Butt cast off his gloom for a space and immersed his whole being in scrambled eggs.
  2. Unlimited or generalized physical extent.
    1. Distance between things. [from 14th c.]
      • c. 1607, William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra:
        But neere him, thy Angell / Becomes a feare: as being o're-powr'd, therefore / Make space enough betweene you.
      • 2001, Sam Wollaston, The Guardian, 3 Nov 2001:
        Which means that for every car there was 10 years ago, there are now 40. Which means - and this is my own, not totally scientific, calculation - that the space between cars on the roads in 1991 was roughly 39 car lengths, because today there is no space at all.
    2. Physical extent across two or three dimensions; area, volume (sometimes for or to do something). [from 14th c.]
      • 1601, William Shakespeare, Hamlet, First Folio 1623:
        O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and / count my selfe a King of infinite space; were it not that / I haue bad dreames.
      • 2007, Dominic Bradbury, The Guardian, 12 May 2007:
        They also wanted a larger garden and more space for home working.
    3. Physical extent in all directions, seen as an attribute of the universe (now usually considered as a part of space-time), or a mathematical model of this. [from 17th c.]
      • 1656, Thomas Hobbes, Elements of Philosophy, II:
        Space is the Phantasme of a Thing existing without the Mind simply.
      • 1880, Popular Science, Aug 1880:
        These are not questions which can be decided by reference to our space intuitions, for our intuitions are confined to Euclidean space, and even there are insufficient, approximative.
      • 2007, Anushka Asthana & David Smith, The Observer, 15 Apr 2007:
        The early results from Gravity Probe B, one of Nasa's most complicated satellites, confirmed yesterday 'to a precision of better than 1 per cent' the assertion Einstein made 90 years ago - that an object such as the Earth does indeed distort the fabric of space and time.
    4. The near-vacuum in which planets, stars and other celestial objects are situated; the universe beyond the earth's atmosphere. [from 17th c.]
      • 1901, HG Wells, First Men in the Moon:
        After all, to go into outer space is not so much worse, if at all, than a polar expedition.
      • 2010, The Guardian, 9 Aug 2010:
        The human race must colonise space within the next two centuries or it will become extinct, Stephen Hawking warned today.
    5. The physical and psychological area one needs within which to live or operate; personal freedom. [from 20th c.]
      • 1996, Linda Brodkey, Writing Permitted in Designated Areas Only:
        Around the time of my parents' divorce, I learned that reading could also give me space.
      • 2008, Jimmy Treigle, Walking on Water:
        "I care about you Billy, whether you believe it or not; but right now I need my space."
  3. A bounded or specific physical extent.
    1. A (chiefly empty) area or volume with set limits or boundaries. [from 14th c.]
      • 2000, Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Islam and Gender:
        The street door was open, and we entered a narrow space with washing facilities, curtained off from the courtyard.
      • 2012, Charlotte Higgins, The Guardian, 16 Jul 2012:
        Converted from vast chambers beneath the old Bankside Power Station which once held a million gallons of oil, the new public areas consist of two large circular spaces for performances and film installations, plus a warren of smaller rooms.
    2. (music) A position on the staff or stave bounded by lines. [from 15th c.]
      • 1849, John Hullah, translating Guillaume Louis Bocquillon-Wilhem, Wilhelm's Method of Teaching Singing:
        The note next above Sol is La; La, therefore, stands in the 2nd space; Si, on the 3rd line, &c.
      • 1990, Sammy Nzioki, Music Time:
        The lines and spaces of the staff are named according to the first seven letters of the alphabet, that is, A B C D E F G.
    3. A gap in text between words, lines etc., or a digital character used to create such a gap. [from 16th c.]
      • 1992, Sam H Ham, Environmental Interpretation:
        According to experts, a single line of text should rarely exceed about 50 characters (including letters and all the spaces between words).
      • 2005, Dr BR Kishore, Dynamic Business Letter Writing:
        It should be typed a space below the salutation : Dear Sir, Subject : Replacement of defective items.
    4. (letterpress typography) A piece of metal type used to separate words, cast lower than other type so as not to take ink, especially one that is narrower than one en (compare quad). [from 17th c.]
      • 1683, Joseph Moxon, Mechanick Exercises: Or, the Doctrine of Handy-Works. Applied to the art of Printing., v 2, pp. 240–41:
        If it be only a Single Letter or two that drops, he thruſts the end of his Bodkin between every Letter of that Word, till he comes to a Space: and then perhaps by forcing thoſe Letters closer, he may have room to put in another Space or a Thin Space; which if he cannot do, and he finds the Space ſtand Looſe in the Form; he with the Point of his Bodkin picks the Space up and bows it a little; which bowing makes the Letters on each ſide of the Space keep their parallel diſtance; for by its Spring it thruſts the Letters that were cloſed with the end of the Bodkin to their adjunct Letters, that needed no cloſing.
      • 1979, Marshall Lee, Bookmaking, p 110:
        Horizontal spacing is further divided into multiples and fractions of the em. The multiples are called quads. The fractions are called spaces.
      • 2005, Phil Baines and Andrew Haslam, Type & Typography, 2nd ed, p 91:
        Other larger spaces – known as quads – were used to space out lines.
    5. A gap; an empty place. [from 17th c.]
      • 2004, Harry M Benshoff (ed.), Queer Cinéma:
        Mainstream Hollywood would not cater to the taste for sexual sensation, which left a space for B-movies, including noir.
      • 2009, Barbara L. Lev, From Pink to Green:
        A horizontal scar filled the space on her chest where her right breast used to be.
    6. (countable, mathematics) A generalized construct or set, the members of which have certain properties in common; often used in combination with the name of a particular mathematician. [from 20th c.]
      Functional analysis is best approached through a sound knowledge of Hilbert space theory.
    7. (geometry) A set of points, each of which is uniquely specified by a number (the dimensionality) of coordinates.
    8. (countable, figuratively) A marketplace for goods or services.
      innovation in the browser space



  • (intervening contents of a volume): volume
  • (space occupied by or intended for a person or thing): room, volume
  • (area or volume of sufficient size to accommodate a person or thing): place, spot, volume
  • (area beyond the atmosphere of planets that consists of a vacuum): outer space
  • (gap between written characters): blank, gap, whitespace (graphic design)
  • (metal type): quad, quadrat
  • (set of points each uniquely specified by a set of coordinates):
  • (personal freedom to think or be oneself):
  • (state of mind one is in when daydreaming):
  • (generalized construct or set in mathematics):
  • (one of the five basic elements in Indian philosophy): ether

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The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.


space (third-person singular simple present spaces, present participle spacing, simple past and past participle spaced)

  1. (obsolete, intransitive) To roam, walk, wander.
    • 1596, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, IV.ii:
      But she as Fayes are wont, in priuie place / Did spend her dayes, and lov'd in forests wyld to space.
  2. (transitive) To set some distance apart.
    Faye had spaced the pots at 8-inch intervals on the windowsill.
    The cities are evenly spaced.
  3. To insert or utilise spaces in a written text.
    This paragraph seems badly spaced.
  4. (transitive) To eject into outer space, usually without a space suit.
    The captain spaced the traitors.

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Old French[edit]


space m (oblique plural spaces, nominative singular spaces, nominative plural space)

  1. Alternative form of espace