Definition of fence in US English:



  • 1A barrier, railing, or other upright structure, typically of wood or wire, enclosing an area of ground to mark a boundary, control access, or prevent escape.

    • ‘Very good control using a wire fence is essential for any kind of utilisation.’
    • ‘There are about a hundred guards at the fence, I'd estimate, and they've got search lights going.’
    • ‘It was completely open, no guards, fences, or locks in sight.’
    • ‘But she'd be a lot more enthusiastic about it if the authorities that run the port didn't put up fences and guards to keep her from it.’
    • ‘He looked over at the fence guarding the graveyard and sighed.’
    • ‘Lorries are scattered around and a barbed wire fence encircles a large area around the building.’
    • ‘South Korean news agency Yonhap said the group cut through a wire fence to gain access to the school grounds in a northern suburb of Beijing early Friday.’
    • ‘I remembered all the good times I had there as a kid, watching cricket, jumping over fences and evading security guards.’
    • ‘On the pretext that the statue was about to be attacked, the army erected a barbed wire fence around the area on May 25 and posted soldiers to guard the edifice.’
    • ‘The building was like a fortress, a tall gray monument of dusty windows and old bricks, guarded by crude metal fences all around its perimeter.’
    • ‘Soldiers found several grenades and tools for cutting fences.’
    • ‘As one approaches it from the road, one sees little more than high fences with guard posts interspersed at intervals.’
    • ‘They broke the wire fence to the play area along with the overflow pipe to the drinking fountain.’
    • ‘A few people hurl rocks at guards behind the fence, causing no injuries.’
    • ‘These will be placed on a smooth hard standing surface with a fence to enclose the whole skating area.’
    • ‘Yet it has no bars on its windows, no armed guards or perimeter fences.’
    • ‘Items could include central heating, double glazing, security improvements, tidying of garden areas, improving fences and electrical and gas upgrading.’
    • ‘Dispute over ownership of a broken fence around a play area in Moreton is preventing it being repaired.’
    • ‘A low, black-painted metal fence enclosed a wide area of the plaza, with two gates in every side.’
    • ‘They found that both adults and children were able to cross over the guard fences due to insufficient height.’
    barrier, paling, railing, rail, bar, hurdle, enclosure
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    1. 1.1 A large upright obstacle used in equestrian jumping events.
      • ‘Five fences from home, Walsh begins to make his move.’
      • ‘Daughter of Princess Anne, and tenth in line to the throne, Phillips would have prevented Funnell from taking the Grand Slam had she not knocked down a fence in the showjumping.’
      • ‘On the second circuit, these two fences are bypassed and the last obstacle has no fence on it at all.’
      • ‘A course with pretty stiff fences, it suits galloping horses and will expose horses who lack stamina.’
      • ‘He overcame a mistake at the last fence of the 2002 Irish Grand National to beat the opposition.’
      • ‘Lake was injured when his mount jumped poorly at the next-to-last fence during a novice hurdle race and unseated him.’
      • ‘She narrowly missed out on gold to Pippa Funnell after knocking down a fence in the showjumping.’
      • ‘Four horses grazed in a nearby field which was dotted with show-jumping fences.’
      • ‘Murphy stalked the leaders throughout the race before making his move with three fences to go.’
      • ‘He was favourite to win the race but pulled up with just three fences to go.’
      • ‘The horse proved a tough prospect and the pair pulled away with about three fences to go and jumped the last two fences together.’
      • ‘Davy Russell and Cregg House pull off a big surprise over the Grand National fences to win the chase.’
      • ‘As well as cameras mounted on four fences, three jockeys will be fitted with cameras in their riding helmets.’
      • ‘A chase involves larger, rigid fences while a hurdle race is run over shorter, more flexible obstacles.’
      • ‘The date is March 1977, a month before Charlotte Brew becomes the first woman to ride over the Grand National fences.’
      • ‘I was riding in a beginners' chase, a race for horses seeking their first win over fences.’
      • ‘The seven-year-old, who fell at the first fence in the same race last year, took the lead three fences from home.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, Newbury's fences are stiffer than most, meaning that a horse must be a sound jumper if it is to do well there.’
  • 2A guard or guide on a plane, saw, or other tool.

    • ‘The fence of this plane is guided by the drawer side, and the depth stop sets the distance to be cut into the side of the drawer.’
    • ‘The fence of a plow plane must be held firmly at the chosen distance from its stock if the tool is to function properly.’
    • ‘This leaves a short side surface at right angles to the rear of the strip, adequate for guiding the fence of the cornice plane.’
  • 3informal A person who deals in stolen goods.

    • ‘There he meets up with the wily Artful Dodger who takes him to thief and fence Fagin, who is in charge of a gang of young pickpockets.’
    • ‘For Polanski portrays the fence Fagin and his gang of children who steal silk handkerchiefs, pocket watches and wallets in a far more sympathetic light than the authorities.’
    receiver of stolen goods, dealer in stolen goods
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  • 1with object Surround or protect with a fence.

    ‘our garden was not fully fenced’
    • ‘It is fenced and locked, but unlocked on the weekends, allowing hikers and picnickers to climb to the top, or just lay out a picnic blanket in its surrounding grassy area.’
    • ‘Moodley says it will be located on the northern side of the dam wall and will be fenced.’
    • ‘The gardens and paddock to the rear and side of the property are railed and fenced to allow maintenance of pony or other animals.’
    • ‘The gardens which surround the property are fenced with mature spruce trees separating the garden from the road.’
    • ‘Low coral walls fence their homes but please ask permission before photographing families at home within these compounds.’
    • ‘In order to close the deal, they first had to fence the 27 acres, separating it from the rest of the farm.’
    • ‘Although the mined area in subsequent wars was clearly mapped and out of human reach, quite a sizeable portion became a danger zone and was, therefore, fenced.’
    • ‘Make sure it's completely fenced, that the fence is locked and that there's no access from the home to the pool.’
    • ‘Their yard or garden will also need to be securely fenced so that the puppy remains safely within its confines.’
    • ‘Six months on from the bushfires in the high country many properties are still not properly fenced.’
    • ‘But all of these seeds showed poor abilities to germinate and propagate in the canyon, even in plots that had been fenced to exclude cows and sheep.’
    • ‘He expressly referred to the significance of the fact that the plots were fenced and to the potential impact on conditions.’
    • ‘The site is fenced and locked and the crane has a fence around the bottom.’
    • ‘The plot is fenced with a combination of logs and brush (both live and dead).’
    • ‘Although he had not examined the fences, the field appeared to be securely fenced.’
    • ‘The entire area of the marsh has to be fenced to protect the remaining part from further encroachment, say nature lovers, who enjoy its vast expanse and birdlife.’
    • ‘Sections of upper beach were fenced to protect nests, and regulations limiting some recreational activities were posted and enforced.’
    • ‘‘It was the best location as the compound was fenced and could be locked at night,’ Mr Tsirekas said.’
    • ‘A retired army officer has fenced his plot and even installed a board warning trespassers in bold red letters.’
    • ‘The land was purchased and fenced at a cost of Euro 27,000.’
    enclose, surround, circumscribe, encircle, circle, encompass, bound, form a barrier around, form a ring round
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    1. 1.1fence something in/off Enclose or separate with a fence for protection or to prevent escape.
      ‘everything is fenced in to keep out the wolves’
      • ‘I have turned up before 5pm and been told the area was fenced off because of lack of staff.’
      • ‘Many graveyards are becoming fenced in and locked up.’
      • ‘Adam Scott, director of regeneration at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: ‘The site has been securely fenced off and a repair is in hand.’’
      • ‘The following day the entire area was fenced off as alterations begin to take place.’
      • ‘Two of the reservoirs are fully fenced in, meaning that livestock are kept well away from the water.’
      • ‘Two specific areas of trees will be fenced off on the bank of the beck so the saplings will be safe from being eaten by deer or other animals.’
      • ‘It is not just the learning spaces that are separate; the children are fenced off from each other in the playing areas.’
      • ‘If the owners have their way, swathes of Scotland will in effect be fenced off, with the public confined to paths and pre-determined routes.’
      • ‘Australia led the world in urging that garden swimming pools should be fenced off to protect toddlers.’
      • ‘It can also be used to fence in pets or protect flower beds from damage by pets and wild vermin such as rabbits.’
      confine, pen in, coop up, rail in, box in, wall in, hedge in, hem in, close in, shut in, shut up, mew up, immure, lock in, shut off, separate off, cut off
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    2. 1.2fence someone/something out Use a barrier to exclude someone or something.
      ‘Idaho law requires people to fence out cows’
      • ‘He plans to return the basin to a more natural state by thinning some sections, fencing cattle out of others, and leaving large islands undisturbed for wildlife.’
      • ‘For comparison, he let cattle graze on two pastures, and fenced them out and made hay from two other pastures.’
      • ‘On summer rangeland, you need to start accumulating growth no later than early July by fencing cows out of the planned winter pasture.’
      • ‘Next, the area is sown with regnans and other native hardwood seeds, and any animals - wallabies, wombats, and possums - that might eat seedlings are fenced out, trapped, or shot.’
      • ‘Marilyn Oshry fears that Lake Louise, located within Banff National Park, will lose its wilderness feel if animals are fenced out.’
      • ‘He decided to plant willows and fence the cows out.’
      • ‘Somewhat along the same line one shopkeeper wondered, ‘Are they trying to fence us in or fence the customers out?’’
      • ‘Remember, you're not only keeping your stallion in, you're fencing out any horse that may get free and want to challenge your horse.’
  • 2informal with object Deal in (stolen goods)

    ‘after stealing your ring, he didn't even know how to fence it’
    • ‘You then made a business of fencing the goods you asked him to steal at your store for profit.’
    • ‘It contained the residue of stolen merchandise that had not yet been fenced or sold.’
    • ‘Policemen need to be out there checking on pawnbrokers and second-hand dealers, because they know who is fencing the goods.’
    • ‘However, unknown to her friends and neighbours, she was running a seaside syndicate of burglars who stole to order and used her shop to fence the goods.’
    • ‘Retailers are collecting the information under a law intended to regulate pawn shops and make it easy for law enforcement officials to track down thieves who fence stolen goods.’
    • ‘But if he is being approached by criminals keen to fence stolen mobiles, it is a certain bet other, less scrupulous, people are too.’
    • ‘He is reported to have had a respectable pawnbroking business in Highbury, and another establishment which fenced stolen goods in the West End.’
    • ‘Better to watch a thief fence his swag than open the Australian magazine and be confronted with the geriatric dribbles of an incontinent mind.’
    • ‘This is comparable in a way to helping fence stolen goods, which Jewish tradition views as a thinly concealed partnership in crime.’
    • ‘There was also concern that the car boot sale could be used to fence stolen goods and market stalls may further damage existing trade in the rundown town.’
    • ‘Though most laptops are stolen simply for the hardware to be fenced, exceptions will exist.’
    • ‘As it happened Holly was already acquainted with her, having fenced some stolen merchandise for her from time to time.’
    receive stolen goods, deal in stolen goods
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  • 3no object Fight with swords, especially as a sport.

    See also fencing
    • ‘One day, I was early for our lesson and I saw the boys fencing.’
    • ‘The ‘sword umbrella’, the handle of which is shaped like a hilt, doubles as a mock sword when rolled for children to fence with.’
    • ‘The school was brightly lit with white walls and a tiled floor with a mat flopped upon it for where the students would be fencing.’
    • ‘First they fenced downstairs in Ward's billiard room; the pool table had been moved to the side.’
    • ‘His next visit was to Lapiere, a Frenchman, who had his academy in Piccadilly, where they fenced together.’
    • ‘The following year two younger brothers, the Dukes of Gloucester and Cumberland, also started to fence.’
    • ‘The young visitors were shown the basics of stage fighting and were able to feel for themselves what it is like to fence with a sabre or epee.’
    • ‘He jabbed the air a couple of times, as if he were fencing, before swinging his sword round his head like a slingshot.’
    • ‘There is a strong tendency toward this seeking of the blade among men who have fenced under the old rules.’
    • ‘What all this means is that when you fence a bout it is imperative that you concentrate and focus on fencing distance.’
    • ‘When one fences a lot and sweats abundantly, the mask can deteriorate quickly.’
    • ‘During training, he fences for 20-30 minutes non-stop then takes a two minute break and begins again.’
    • ‘Next, Anders took a wooden sword and fenced with one of the dummies.’
    • ‘So now, from the very moment that someone picks up a foil to learn how to fence they can start developing the same skills that are associated with top level fencing performance.’
    • ‘I was trying to teach him how to fence but we didn't have any swords so we used bats.’
    • ‘Ho has fenced for 24 years and competed for almost 20.’
    1. 3.1 Conduct a discussion or argument in such a way as to avoid the direct mention of something.
      ‘we were fencing, not talking about the subject we'd come to talk about’
      be evasive, be vague, be ambiguous, be non-committal, equivocate, prevaricate, stall, vacillate, quibble, hedge, beat about the bush, dodge the issue, sidestep the issue, parry questions, fudge the issue, mince one's words
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  • side of the fence

    • Either of the opposing positions involved in a conflict.

      ‘whatever side of the fence you are on, the issue is here to stay’
      • ‘As a fan, I'm looking forward to being on the other side of the fence.’
      • ‘But he wanted me to stop as a player and go on that side of the fence.’
      • ‘You were a media planner, and handled the media campaigns of other models, so what did you learn from the other side of the fence?’
      • ‘I used the term odd, because the same electoral trend was not apparent on the nationalist side of the fence.’
      • ‘Join me as we look at these issues from the other side of the fence.’
      • ‘There were some people on the other side of the fence, may I say, who reached out and suggested it.’
      • ‘I hope to understand where people who sit on the other side of the fence from me are coming from.’
      • ‘Now, we're on the opposite side of the fence - we're selling the little house we've grown to love.’
      • ‘I'm just here to let people know what was really going down on my side of the fence.’
      • ‘In 1994 they had been on the other side of the fence, yet, today they all sit next to each other peacefully in church.’
  • sit on the fence

    • Avoid making a decision or choice.

      • ‘They want someone to make all their choices for them, so they just sit on the fence and wait to be told what to do.’
      • ‘Everyone is sitting on the fence on this and we're the first group to come out.’
      • ‘We shall be sitting on the fence until it becomes law.’
      • ‘As someone who has deferred the choice thus far (rather than actively making a decision), I know I could be accused of sitting on the fence.’
      • ‘But he's going to make change and he's going to bring a lot of confidence to a lot of people who are sitting on the fence with the same decision.’
      • ‘‘Ron has never been one for sitting on the fence when it comes to an opinion,’ Townsend says.’
      • ‘If that brings to mind a lot of dithering and sitting on the fence, you couldn't be more wrong.’
      • ‘Sometimes a decision is required and there's no option to sit on the fence.’
      • ‘You should make a decision; you cannot sit on the fence.’
      • ‘It was still going to be my decision and my decision was going to be that we would not sit on the fence.’
      undecided, uncommitted, uncertain, unsure, vacillating, wavering, dithering, hesitant, tentative, doubtful, irresolute, ambivalent, torn, in two minds, in a dilemma, on the horns of a dilemma, in a quandary
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Middle English (in the sense ‘defending, defense’): shortening of defense. Compare with fencible and fend.