English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I need the correct English word for the German expression (zeitlicher) Abstand. Abstand means "distance", and zeitlich means "in time".

The "distance" between building maintenance dates is about ten days.

Would "lag/spacing" be correct, as Langenscheidt translates it? I doubt it.

My guess would be "interval", but it sounds a bit too mathematical to me.

share|improve this question
Related: Is there a single word for a “unit of time”? – snumpy May 26 '11 at 12:49
I have made your third line an example sentence, because it was almost one, and because it made your question easier to parse. Feel free to roll back if you don't like it. – Cerberus May 26 '11 at 13:41
You might consider rephrasing it. "Building maintenance dates occur about every ten days." Otherwise, I think interval is pretty common and not as mathematical as you might think. – Kit Z. Fox May 26 '11 at 14:06
It's not a sentence, it's a column title in a table. – Quandary May 27 '11 at 12:00
up vote 28 down vote accepted

When referring to 'distance in time', the best word is:


There is also:


share|improve this answer
+1, and you can reassure OP that interval is not strictly technical ("interval between contractions") – Unreason May 26 '11 at 12:44
+1 I think interval is perfect in this context. – Cerberus May 26 '11 at 13:42
It should be noted that "interval" to me suggest some kind of recurrence. That's fine for my use case, but it's not perfect in the sense that "distance" does not necessarily imply recurrence. "time span" would be a term that fits as a better general translation. – Quandary Jul 19 '13 at 13:14

duration or period

The duration between building maintenance dates is about ten days.


The period between building maintenance dates is about ten days.

Alternatives include:

  • time
  • time span
  • interval
  • term
  • spell
  • interim
  • tide
  • space
  • stretch
  • spread
  • gap
  • interlude
  • opening
  • pause
share|improve this answer
I like time span, because it's the only reasonable alternative that doesn't imply some kind of recurrence. – Quandary Jul 19 '13 at 13:10
@Quandary "Duration" doesn't imply recurrence either. – Muhd Jan 28 '14 at 19:26

Wouldn't time do in this case?

As in time between building maintenance dates is about ten days.

Update: If it is a column title and not a sentence as the OP mentioned in the comments, either Interval or Time Interval would be a better choice.

share|improve this answer

"timespan" ?

share|improve this answer
Give yourself -1 if you're a programmer, @tim_hutton :) – JeffSahol May 26 '11 at 20:58
@JeffSahol: I am a programmer but I don't know what you mean. :( – tim_hutton May 27 '11 at 9:13
Ah, should have said .NET developer: msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/system.timespan.aspx – JeffSahol May 27 '11 at 12:23

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.