keep at a distance
keep (someone or something) at a distance
1. To prevent someone, something, or oneself from interacting or becoming involved (with someone or something else). Usually followed by "from someone or something." The government has so far been keeping the country at a distance from the hostilities in the region. My mother was very overprotective, and she always kept me at a distance from anything or anyone she thought might be harmful.
2. To maintain a protective level of detachment or dissociation from someone or something. John has been keeping us all at a distance lately, so none of us knows how he is really doing. The senator was careful to keep the controversial topic at a distance during his re-election campaign.
keep (someone or something, or oneself) at a distance
1. To maintain a significant degree of physical separation from someone or something. You've got to make sure to keep this stuff at a distance if you're handling nitric acid—unless you want an explosion, that is. He sets up a border with ropes to keep the audience at a distance while he performs his fire-juggling routine.
2. To ensure someone, something, or oneself remains physically separated (from someone or something else). Usually followed by "from someone or something." I'm still feeling a bit under the weather, so you should probably keep yourself at a distance. Please keep bystanders and passersby at a distance from the work site.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
keep someone or something at a distance
to retain some amount of physical distance from someone or something. Please try to keep Tom at a distance. He just gets in the way. I wanted to keep the smelly plant at a distance.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.