The meaning of SPAN is "this is a (generic) span of (e.g., text) content". Compare to DIV, which means "this is a logical division (i.e., a generic document section)".
SPAN is mainly a hook for hanging styles off of (so you can use instead of ).
The DIV and SPAN elements, in conjunction with the id and class attributes, offer a generic mechanism for adding structure to documents. These elements define content to be inline (SPAN) or block-level (DIV) but impose no other presentational idioms on the content. Thus, authors may use these elements in conjunction with style sheets, the lang attribute, etc., to tailor HTML to their own needs and tastes.
Suppose, for example, that we wanted to generate an HTML document based on a database of client information. Since HTML does not include elements that identify objects such as "client", "telephone number", "email address", etc., we use DIV and SPAN to achieve the desired structural and presentational effects. We might use the TABLE element as follows to structure the information: