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Related to keep back: keep up
1. To physically restrain someone or something. A noun or pronoun can be used between "keep" and "back." I kept him back so that he didn't run after her.
2. To cause someone or something to physically stay away from someone or something else. A noun or pronoun can be used between "keep" and "back." This area is too dangerous so keep the kids back.
3. To obstruct someone or something. A noun or pronoun can be used between "keep" and "back." Your fears are really keeping you back in life. The levee is keeping back the floodwaters, for now.
4. To require a student to repeat a grade of school. A noun or pronoun can be used between "keep" and "back." Am I really being kept back? I don't want to repeat junior year—can't I go to summer school or something?
5. To hold or keep something in one's possession. A noun or pronoun can be used between "keep" and "back." I kept back some of the money, so we still have some cash left.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
keep (someone, something, or an animal) back (from someone or something)
to make someone, something, or an animal stay in a position away from someone or something. Keep everyone back from the injured lady. Please keep the dogs back from the turtle.
keep someone or something back
to hold someone or something in reserve. Keep back some of the food for an emergency. We are keeping Karen back until the other players have exhausted themselves.
keep someone backand hold someone back
1. Lit. to restrain people from moving forward or getting in the way. The police were ordered to keep people back so they wouldn't interfere with the paramedics.
2. Fig. to keep a child in the same grade for an extra year. We asked them to keep John back a year. John was kept back a year in school.
3. Fig. to keep someone from advancing in life. I think that your limited vocabulary is keeping you back. Her lack of computer skills kept her back in her career.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
1. To remain out of the way: The spectators at the film shoot kept back. Passengers are requested to keep back behind the yellow line.
2. To cause someone or something to remain out of the way: The police kept the onlookers back so that the paramedics could do their job. The fine mesh kept back the debris.
3. To fail to advance someone to the next grade or class of school; flunk: The teacher kept three struggling students back. A tutor helped each student who was kept back.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.