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At a safe distance; held back by some action. That preventative course of antibiotics really kept the illness at bay—I was hardly sick at all! We have a security system to keep burglars at bay.
Fig. at a distance. (*Typically: be ~; keep someone or something ~; remain ~.) I have to keep the bill collectors at bay until I get my paycheck. The mosquitoes will not remain at bay for very long.
Cornered, in distress, as in Angry bystanders chased the thief into an alley and held him at bay until the police arrived . This idiom originally came from hunting, where it describes an animal that has been driven back and now faces pursuing hounds. Its use for other situations dates from the late 1500s.
at ˈbaywhen an animal that is being hunted is at bay, it must turn and face the dogs and hunters because it is impossible to escape from them
To keep someone or something at a safe distance. The phrase derives from stag hunting, from a French word that also is the source of the English word for the baying howl that hounds make during a chance. A tired and cornered stag that turns to face the pursuing hounds is, for the moment, at a safe distance from its attackers.