What does “keep someone at arm’s length” mean?

Discover the meaning of this popular idiom and how it can help you maintain healthy boundaries in relationships. Learn more here!

Understanding the Idiom

“Keep someone at arm’s length” is an idiom that means to keep a safe distance from someone or something, either physically or figuratively, in order to avoid getting too close or involved.

This phrase is commonly used in English language.

Origins and Definitions

The origin of the idiom is unclear, but it has been in use for several centuries.

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, the phrase “keep someone at arm’s length” means “to not allow someone to become too friendly with you”.

It can also mean “to not allow someone to become too involved in your affairs”.

Other dictionaries, such as Collins Online Dictionary, define the phrase as “to avoid becoming too friendly or involved with someone”.

These definitions highlight the importance of maintaining a certain distance in order to avoid unwanted intimacy or involvement.

Is “I have a bone to pick with you” a similar expression to “keep someone at arm’s length”?

“I have a bone to pick with you” is not a similar expression to “keep someone at arm’s length.” The meaning of “bone to pick” implies a disagreement or grievance, while “keep someone at arm’s length” means maintaining a certain distance or not getting too close to someone.

Usage in Language

The idiom is commonly used in spoken and written English.

Here are three example sentences that use the idiom:

  1. “I like my boss, but I keep him at arm’s length because I don’t want him to think we’re too friendly.”
  2. “She’s a nice girl, but I keep her at arm’s length because I don’t want to get too involved in her personal life.”
  3. “He’s a bit of a troublemaker, so I keep him at arm’s length to avoid any drama.”

There are several synonyms for the idiom, including “keep at a distance”, “maintain a safe distance”, and “keep away from”.

These phrases convey the same idea of keeping a certain distance in order to avoid unwanted intimacy or involvement.

In summary, “keep someone at arm’s length” is a commonly used idiom in English language that means to keep a safe distance from someone or something to avoid getting too close or involved.