length


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at arm's length

At or occupying a distance, either physical or figurative, away from oneself that affords a level of safety or security or that excludes intimacy. I'm involved in all the board meetings, but I prefer to stay at arm's length if the issues become too contentious. John always keeps his friends at arm's length, so that no one gets close enough to hurt his feelings.
See also: length

arm's length

A distance intentionally kept from something or between something, equal (literally or figuratively) to an arm's span. Typically used in the phrase "keep at an arm's length." Nancy has been keeping me at an arm's length ever since she found out I was gossiping about her. You're filthy from that game, please stay an arm's length away from me! You can watch me cook, but stay at arm's length in case any hot oil spurts out of the pan.
See also: length

give (someone) the length of (one's) tongue

To voice one's opinion, often in an aggressive or abusive way. I thought Paul was unhappy, but I did not expect him to lash out and give me the length of his tongue like that. I can't stand being around my mom when she starts giving us the length of her tongue.
See also: give, length, of, tongue

go to any length(s)

To do anything necessary to accomplish or attain something. I will go to any length to get an A in this class, professor—I'll clean your office, wash your car, anything! Go to any lengths you need to, just get me a reservation for this Saturday night!
See also: any

short of a length

In cricket, a short delivery from the bowler to the batsman. Quit pitching the ball short of a length—that's how they're getting so many hits!
See also: length, of, short

at great length

For a long duration. When I came home after curfew, my mom interrogated me at great length. He spoke at great length about how he had been inspired by his trip.
See also: great, length

at length

1. In great detail. I studied American modernism in college, so I can speak about Eliot's poetry at length.
2. For a long period of time. My father always lectures me at length about the dangers of living in the city.
3. Finally. At length, the sermon ended.
See also: length

*at great length

for a long period of time. (*Typically: explain ~; question someone ~; speak ~.) The lawyer questioned the witness at great length.
See also: great, length

at length

 
1. after some time; finally. At length, the roses bloomed, and the tomatoes ripened. And at length, the wizard spoke.
2. and at some length for quite a long time. He spoke to us about the problem at some length. He described the history of his village at length.
See also: length

go to any length

Fig. to do whatever is necessary. (See also go to great lengths (to do something).) I'll go to any length to secure this contract. I want to get a college degree, but I won't go to any length to get one.
See also: any, length

go to great lengths (to do something)

 and go to any lengths (to do something)
to work very hard to accomplish something; to expend great efforts in trying to do something. I went to great lengths to explain to him that he was not in any trouble.
See also: great, length

keep at arm's length from someone or something

 and keep someone or something at arm's length
Fig. to retain a degree of physical or social remoteness from someone or something. I try to keep at arm's length from Larry, since our disagreement. I keep Tom at arm's length because we don't get along.
See also: keep, length

keep somebody/something at arm's length

also hold somebody/something at arm's length
to avoid becoming connected with someone or something We proposed a tax break for companies that treat their workers well, but lawmakers are keeping the idea at arm's length for now. She doesn't talk much about it because she needs to hold these painful experiences at arm's length.
Related vocabulary: keep your distance (from somebody/something)
Etymology: from the literal meaning of at arm's length ( away from you by a distance equal to the length of your arm)
See also: keep, length

at length

1. for a long time We have discussed at length the events that led to his suspension.
2. after a period of time At length, Nick realized that she was listening to the music more than she was listening to him.
See also: length

go to great lengths to do something

to try very hard to achieve a result This champion marathon runner is going to great lengths to help needy children. Both sides have gone to great lengths to emphasize areas of similarity in their proposals.
Related vocabulary: take (great) pains to do something
See also: great, length

hold/keep somebody at arm's length

to not allow someone to become too friendly with you I always had the feeling she was keeping me at arm's length.
See also: hold, length

go to great lengths to do something

to try very hard to achieve something I went to great lengths to explain the situation to him but he still didn't seem to understand.
See also: great, length

at arm's length

At a distance, avoiding intimacy or familiarity, as in Bill hated seeing his colleagues outside the office, preferring to keep all of them at arm's length , or She was friendly only when he was safely at arm's length. Now often used with the verb keep, this term for distancing oneself from a person, organization, or issue originated as at arm's end but developed its current form by the mid-1600s.
See also: length

at length

1. In full, extensively. For example, The preacher went on at length about sin, or I have read at length about these cameras. [c. 1500]
2. After a long time, finally, as in At length the procession ended. [Early 1500s] Also see in the long run.
See also: length

go to any length

Also, go to great lengths. Take a great deal of trouble for something, go to extremes. For example, He'll go to great lengths to make a perfect chocolate cake, or, as Benjamin Disraeli put it in Coningsby (1844): "He would go ... [to] any lengths for his party."
See also: any, length

at arm's length

At such a distance that physical or social contact is discouraged: kept the newcomer at arm's length at first.
See also: length

at length

1. After some time; eventually: At length we arrived at our destination.
2. For a considerable time; fully: spoke at length about the court ruling.
See also: length
References in classic literature ?
At other times, when rambling among the groves, or visiting at the houses of her acquaintances, she wore a tunic of white tappa, reaching from her waist to a little below the knees; and when exposed for any length of time to the sun, she invariably protected herself from its rays by a floating mantle of--the same material, loosely gathered about the person.
For many seconds I hearkened to its reverberations as it dashed against the sides of the chasm in its descent; at length there was a sullen plunge into water, succeeded by loud echoes.
Yet, as we proceeded, the sounds of human life revived by sure degrees, and at length large bands of the most abandoned of a London populace were seen reeling to and fro.
Every thing was made snug, alow and aloft; and as the wind steadily freshened, we lay to, at length, under spanker and foretopsail, both double-reefed.
Still, it is by no means so large or so distant as you imagined it, -- for the fact is that, as it wriggles its way up this thread, which some spider has wrought along the window-sash, I find it to be about the sixteenth of an inch in its extreme length, and also about the sixteenth of an inch distant from the pupil of my eye.
Its length was equal to that of three of the loftiest trees that grow, and it was as wide as the great hall of audience in your palace, O most sublime and munificent of the Caliphs.
From the dining-room, of which, though already seen, and always to be seen at five o'clock, the general could not forgo the pleasure of pacing out the length, for the more certain information of Miss Morland, as to what she neither doubted nor cared for, they proceeded by quick communication to the kitchen -- the ancient kitchen of the convent, rich in the massy walls and smoke of former days, and in the stoves and hot closets of the present.
He joined to these a spiral, two inches in diameter, which terminated in two branch pieces of unequal length, the longer of which, however, was twenty-five feet in height and the shorter only fifteen feet.
After the shipwreck and a long battle with the waves he has at length reached land:--
My dear colleagues," said Barbicane, without further preamble, "the subject now before us is the construction of the engine, its length, its composition, and its weight.
At length the jays arrive, whose discordant screams were heard long before, as they were warily making their approach an eighth of a mile off, and in a stealthy and sneaking manner they flit from tree to tree, nearer and nearer, and pick up the kernels which the squirrels have dropped.
After much consultation on this matter, it was at length agreed that the ensign should go across the country to Hereford, whence he might find some conveyance to one of the sea-ports in Wales, and thence might make his escape abroad.
The maintopmast was over thirty feet in length, the foretopmast nearly thirty, and it was of these that I intended making the shears.
At length lassitude succeeded to the tumult I had before endured, and I threw myself on the bed in my clothes, endeavouring to seek a few moments of forgetfulness.
At length, to the end that he might sustain a principal and important character in the affair; and might have the start of Solomon and his two friends, through whose means he knew the adventure, with a variety of exaggerations, would be known to at least a score of people, and most likely to Mr Haredale himself, by breakfast-time to-morrow; he determined to repair to the Warren before going to bed.