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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

hold (one) at arm's length

To keep one at a certain distance away, either physical or figurative, in order to afford a level of safety or security or to prevent intimacy. John always holds his friends at arm's length, so that no one gets close enough to hurt his feelings. My daughter likes to watch me cook, but I make sure to hold her at arm's length so she doesn't get close to anything hot.
See also: hold, length

keep (one) at arm's length

To keep one a certain distance away, either physical or figurative, in order to afford a level of safety or security or to prevent intimacy. John always keeps his friends at arm's length, so that no one gets close enough to hurt his feelings. My daughter likes to watch me cook, but I make sure to keep her at arm's length so she doesn't get close to anything hot.
See also: keep, length

go to great lengths (to do something)

To put in a lot of effort, energy, or work to achieve something. We went to great lengths to ensure that this film was historically accurate. I appreciate that the tutor went to great lengths to make sure I understood the assignment
See also: great, length

measure your length

obsolete To lie or fall flat on some surface. He felt, as he measured his length on the hard stone beneath him, as though the gods were laughing at him in his misfortune.
See also: length, measure

the length and breadth of (something)

The entire space or area of something or some place; everywhere in a place or area. The coach made me run the length and breadth of the field for the rest of practice for cursing at him. We're spending three months traveling the length and breadth of the East Coast this summer. I searched the length and breadth of the house, but I couldn't find my keys anywhere.
See also: and, breadth, length, of

*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

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

COMMON If one person or organization is at arm's length from another, they are not closely connected, for example because it would be wrong for them to influence one another. The prison service is moving towards becoming a self-regulating agency at arm's length from government. Relations between the bank and the committee will be at arm's length until the report is delivered in July.
See also: length

keep someone at arm's length

If you keep someone at arm's length, you avoid being friendly with them or getting emotionally involved with them. Brian felt more guilt than grief. He'd tried to get close, but his father had kept him at arm's length.
See also: keep, length, someone

the length and breadth of something

COMMON If someone does something or something happens the length and breadth of a place, it is done or happens everywhere in that place. The group built their reputation by playing shows across the length and breadth of North America. She has travelled the length and breadth of Britain.
See also: and, breadth, length, of, something

keep someone or something at arm's length

avoid intimacy or close contact with someone or something.

the length and breadth of

throughout the whole of (a place).
See also: and, breadth, length, of

measure your length

(of a person) fall flat on the ground. dated
See also: length, measure

keep somebody at arm’s ˈlength

avoid becoming too friendly with somebody: He’s the kind of man who’s best kept at arm’s length.
See also: keep, length, somebody

at ˈlength


1 (literary) after a long time: ‘I’m not sure,’ he said at length.
2 in great detail and taking a long time: She talked at length about her work in hospitals.
See also: length

the length and ˈbreadth of something

everywhere in an area: I’ve travelled the length and breadth of Europe, but I’ve never seen such beautiful scenery as here.
See also: and, breadth, length, of, something

go to any, great, etc. ˈlengths (to do something)

try very hard (to do something); do whatever is necessary: She went to great lengths to find this book.They were prepared to go to any lengths to help their son.
See also: 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 ?
I now observed -- with what horror it is needless to say -- that its nether extremity was formed of a crescent of glittering steel, about a foot in length from horn to horn; the horns upward, and the under edge evidently as keen as that of a razor.
The vibration of the pendulum was at right angles to my length.
I had fallen into an habitual see-saw, or wave of the hand about the platter: and, at length, the unconscious uniformity of the movement deprived it of effect.
At length it forced -- it wrestled its way into my soul -- it burned itself in upon my shuddering reason.
At length for my seared and writhing body there was no longer an inch of foothold on the firm floor of the prison.
The effect of the Order will be to prohibit any vehicle from proceeding in the lengths of road specified in the schedule below.
9, 10) Maximum studies deal with the lengths of the digits, particularly 2D:4D ratio.
1st MANY CLOUDs 25/1 2ND saint Are 25-1 1 3/4 Lengths 3rD Mondbeg Dude 40-1 6 Lengths 4th Alvarado 20-1 3 1/2 Lengths 5th shutthefrontdoor 6-1Fav 1 1/2 Lengths 6th royale Knight 25-1 2 1/4 Lengths 7th tranquil sea 33-1 10 Lengths 8th Cause Of Causes 14-1 2 1/4 Lengths 9th soll 9-1 14 Lengths 10th Chance Du roy 40-1 10 Lengths 11th Mon Parrain 33-1 5 Lengths 12th Pineau De re 25-1 1 1/2 Lengths 13th Owega star 50-1 6 Lengths 14th spring heeled 25-1 25 Lengths 15th Oscar time 20-1 2 1/2 Lengths 16th First Lieutenant 14-1 3 3/4 Lengths 17th rocky Creek 8-1 5 Lengths 18th Night In Milan 20-1 2 1/2 Lengths 19th Dolatulo 66-1 3 1/4 Lengths.
Moonreach was four lengths behind in third and Pitkin fourth, another four-and-one-fourth-length adrift.
Information on the relationship between otolith dimension and the total length of fish is useful to determine the size of fish if the lengths of otoliths encountered in predator stomach are measured.
The experiment was conducted to study growth response of five olive cultivars to different cutting lengths.
The High Performance Servo Motors were designed around a modular concept to allow users to select frame sizes, lengths and options for the optimal motor to match their application.
The sum of the chord lengths of the air voids intersected by these traverse lines is then used to estimate the air void content, or total volume fraction of air, by summing the lengths of all the chords and dividing by the total length of the 20 traverse lines, each of which is the width of the sample.
Coral - winning distance: 10-11 Oxford by three lengths or more, 10-3 Cambridge by three lengths or fewer, 2 Oxford by three lengths or fewer, 12 Cambridge by three lengths or more, 100 dead heat; specials: 10 new course record, 20 both boats to sink, 40 Cambridge/Oxford boat to sink, 100 neither crew completes the race.