keep at arm's length, to

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Related to To keep at arm's length: hold at arm's 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

keep (someone or something) at arm's length

1. To maintain a protective level of detachment or dissociation from someone or something. John has been keeping us all at arm's length lately, so none of us knows how he is really doing. The senator was careful to keep the controversial topic at arm's length during his re-election campaign.
2. To prevent someone, something, or oneself from interacting, being involved, or becoming associated too closely with someone or something else. Typically followed by "from someone or something." The government has so far been keeping the country at arm's length from the hostilities in the region. My mother was very overprotective, and she always kept me at arm's length from anything or anyone she thought might be harmful.
See also: keep, length
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

keep at arm's length, to

To avoid familiarity, to keep someone at a distance. This expression, with its inevitable image of extending one’s arm to push someone away, has long been used figuratively to signify distancing oneself from a problem, group, political stand, and so forth. In the sixteenth century it was put as at arm’s end, as Sir Philip Sidney had it in Arcadia (1580), but by the mid-seventeenth century it began to appear as at arm’s length.
See also: keep, to
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in periodicals archive ?
There are about a dozen courses I have yet to visit, some of which I am determined to keep at arm's length. When I am dead the only things I want on my gravestone is my name, dates, neck measurement and the words: "He never went to Redcar."
A few years after I'd graduated from nursing school, patients had become that unknowable other world, the one that I had learned to keep at arm's length in order to survive.
Another feature equally appreciated is the laid-back attitude of the local police.L TIME was when political parties were banned from having stands on the Eisteddfod field, as the festival attempted to keep at arm's length from politics.
It was the Victorian father method, designed to keep at arm's length rowdy children, who might have occasionally wanted a bit of affection too, but never got it.
But his second half substitute appearance has rekindled his desire to keep at arm's length makers of quiz programmes and chat shows for a little while longer.
No longer was betting part of the `sin industry' for the Government to keep at arm's length, yet profit from.