Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Financial, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Like this video? Subscribe to our free daily email and get a new idiom video every day!
at arm's length
At or occupying a distance, either physical or figurative, away from oneself that affords a level of safety or security or that excludes intimacy. I'm involved in all the board meetings, but I prefer to stay at arm's length if the issues become too contentious. John always keeps his friends at arm's length, so that no one gets close enough to hurt his feelings.
A distance intentionally kept from something or between something, equal (literally or figuratively) to an arm's span. Typically used in the phrase "keep at an arm's length." Nancy has been keeping me at an arm's length ever since she found out I was gossiping about her. You're filthy from that game, please stay an arm's length away from me! You can watch me cook, but stay at arm's length in case any hot oil spurts out of the pan.
give (someone) the length of (one's) tongue
To voice one's opinion, often in an aggressive or abusive way. I thought Paul was unhappy, but I did not expect him to lash out and give me the length of his tongue like that. I can't stand being around my mom when she starts giving us the length of her tongue.
go to any length(s)
To do anything necessary to accomplish or attain something. I will go to any length to get an A in this class, professor—I'll clean your office, wash your car, anything! Go to any lengths you need to, just get me a reservation for this Saturday night!
See also: any
short of a length
In cricket, a short delivery from the bowler to the batsman. Quit pitching the ball short of a length—that's how they're getting so many hits!
at great length
For a long duration. When I came home after curfew, my mom interrogated me at great length. He spoke at great length about how he had been inspired by his trip.
1. In great detail. I studied American modernism in college, so I can speak about Eliot's poetry at length.
2. For a long period of time. My father always lectures me at length about the dangers of living in the city.
3. Finally. At length, the sermon ended.
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.
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.
go to great lengths (to do something)
To put in a lot of effort, energy, or work to achieve something. We went to great lengths to ensure that this film was historically accurate. I appreciate that the tutor went to great lengths to make sure I understood the assignment
measure your length
obsolete To lie or fall flat on some surface. He felt, as he measured his length on the hard stone beneath him, as though the gods were laughing at him in his misfortune.
the length and breadth of (something)
The entire space or area of something or some place; everywhere in a place or area. The coach made me run the length and breadth of the field for the rest of practice for cursing at him. We're spending three months traveling the length and breadth of the East Coast this summer. I searched the length and breadth of the house, but I couldn't find my keys anywhere.
*at great length
for a long period of time. (*Typically: explain ~; question someone ~; speak ~.) The lawyer questioned the witness at great length.
1. after some time; finally. At length, the roses bloomed, and the tomatoes ripened. And at length, the wizard spoke.
2. and at some length for quite a long time. He spoke to us about the problem at some length. He described the history of his village at length.
go to any length
Fig. to do whatever is necessary. (See also go to great lengths (to do something).) I'll go to any length to secure this contract. I want to get a college degree, but I won't go to any length to get one.
go to great lengths (to do something)and go to any lengths (to do something)
to work very hard to accomplish something; to expend great efforts in trying to do something. I went to great lengths to explain to him that he was not in any trouble.
keep at arm's length from someone or somethingand keep someone or something at arm's length
Fig. to retain a degree of physical or social remoteness from someone or something. I try to keep at arm's length from Larry, since our disagreement. I keep Tom at arm's length because we don't get along.
at arm's length
At a distance, avoiding intimacy or familiarity, as in Bill hated seeing his colleagues outside the office, preferring to keep all of them at arm's length , or She was friendly only when he was safely at arm's length. Now often used with the verb keep, this term for distancing oneself from a person, organization, or issue originated as at arm's end but developed its current form by the mid-1600s.
1. In full, extensively. For example, The preacher went on at length about sin, or I have read at length about these cameras. [c. 1500]
2. After a long time, finally, as in At length the procession ended. [Early 1500s] Also see in the long run.
go to any length
Also, go to great lengths. Take a great deal of trouble for something, go to extremes. For example, He'll go to great lengths to make a perfect chocolate cake, or, as Benjamin Disraeli put it in Coningsby (1844): "He would go ... [to] any lengths for his party."
at arm's length
COMMON If one person or organization is at arm's length from another, they are not closely connected, for example because it would be wrong for them to influence one another. The prison service is moving towards becoming a self-regulating agency at arm's length from government. Relations between the bank and the committee will be at arm's length until the report is delivered in July.
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.
the length and breadth of something
COMMON If someone does something or something happens the length and breadth of a place, it is done or happens everywhere in that place. The group built their reputation by playing shows across the length and breadth of North America. She has travelled the length and breadth of Britain.
keep someone or something at arm's lengthavoid intimacy or close contact with someone or something.
the length and breadth ofthroughout the whole of (a place).
measure your length(of a person) fall flat on the ground. dated
keep somebody at arm’s ˈlengthavoid becoming too friendly with somebody: He’s the kind of man who’s best kept at arm’s length.
1 (literary) after a long time: ‘I’m not sure,’ he said at length.
2 in great detail and taking a long time: She talked at length about her work in hospitals.
the length and ˈbreadth of somethingeverywhere in an area: I’ve travelled the length and breadth of Europe, but I’ve never seen such beautiful scenery as here.
go to any, great, etc. ˈlengths (to do something)try very hard (to do something); do whatever is necessary: She went to great lengths to find this book. ♢ They were prepared to go to any lengths to help their son.
at arm's length
At such a distance that physical or social contact is discouraged: kept the newcomer at arm's length at first.
1. After some time; eventually: At length we arrived at our destination.
2. For a considerable time; fully: spoke at length about the court ruling.