keep (one) at arm's length

(redirected from kept them at arm's length)

keep (one) at arm's length

To keep one a certain distance away, either physical or figurative, in order to afford a level of safety or security or to prevent intimacy. John always keeps 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 keep her at arm's length so she doesn't get close to anything hot.
See also: keep, length

keep someone at arm's length

If you keep someone at arm's length, you avoid being friendly with them or getting emotionally involved with them. Brian felt more guilt than grief. He'd tried to get close, but his father had kept him at arm's length.
See also: keep, length, someone

keep someone or something at arm's length

avoid intimacy or close contact with someone or something.

keep somebody at arm’s ˈlength

avoid becoming too friendly with somebody: He’s the kind of man who’s best kept at arm’s length.
See also: keep, length, somebody
References in periodicals archive ?
But we stood firm, stuck to the plan and pretty much kept them at arm's length.
The Mohawks produced a better display in the final session but Spinners kept them at arm's length.
I thought we were fantastic in the first half, we kept them at arm's length, we didn't let them get near the box and I thought we deserved to be in front.
Rhyl continued to press, but a well-organised Haverfordwest defence kept them at arm's length.
Plymouth had won six out of their last seven matches at Home Sweet Home but the Robins' defensive exertions, led by fit-again Chris Banks, kept them at arm's length and they undeniably deserved a draw.
King Hussein of Jordan, who initially threw his weight behind the defectors, later kept them at arm's length.