hold (one) at arm's length

(redirected from held him at arm's 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
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
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References in classic literature ?
The two chiefs were polite to him, but the clerks held him at arm's length and prevented all companionship by means of the extreme and grotesque politeness which they bestowed upon him.
what an appalling look old Lobbs gave him, as he dragged him out by the collar, and held him at arm's length.
held him at arm's length so he cut off your arms to be near to you.