keep (someone or something) at bay

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keep (someone or something) at bay

To keep someone or something at a distance or from reaching full potency, especially in order to prevent harm to oneself. During my college years, the only things I had to keep hunger at bay were beans, rice, and plain pasta. You have to start meeting your minimum monthly repayments if you want to keep your creditors at bay. These tree frogs have a powerful poison on their backs that helps keep predators at bay.
See also: bay, keep
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

keep something/someone at bay


hold something/someone at bay

COMMON If you keep something or someone at bay or hold them at bay, you stop them from attacking you or harming you. By salting the meat, bacteria were kept at bay, preserving the meat for future use. Tooth decay can be held at bay by fluoride toothpaste and good dentistry. A dozen American soldiers held the crowd at bay until the helicopter lifted off. Note: When a hunted animal is at bay, it is trapped by the hounds (= hunting dogs) and forced to turn and face them to defend itself. However, if the animal is successfully defending itself in this position, you can say that it is holding the hounds at bay. This second use seems the most likely origin of the expression.
See also: bay, keep, someone, something
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

hold/keep somebody/something at ˈbay

prevent somebody/something from coming too close or attacking: Vitamin C helps to keep colds and flu at bay.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
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References in periodicals archive ?
Colon cancer, constipation, and diverticulosis are just a few of the ills fiber may keep at bay.
Sadly, his rock-bottom self-esteem means she's totally oblivious to the raging passion Malc's struggling to keep at bay.
Her job is to feed its red squirrel population and keep at bay alien invaders from the animal and plant world.
The Rover Metro of Owen Turner, with its punchy 1.4 twin cam K series engine, managed to keep at bay a fleet of more than 50 entrants, with the Citroen AX of John and Jill Cotton second.
It totally reflects my personal life and I knew it would be a great liberation in terms of the sick, wild side of myself that I always keep at bay, away from the press and public.
and he must hit top form immediately with the Blades to keep at bay 20-year-old Shay Given - the reserve keeper at Blackburn - who has won rave notices with a string of top-class displays for McCarthy.