Definition of keep someone/something at arm's length in US English:

keep someone/something at arm's length

phrase

  • Avoid intimacy or close contact with someone or something.

    • ‘They kept me at arm's length, they had to because of my reckless behaviour.’
    • ‘The overall strategy should be the same as it always was at least until the 1980s - to keep potential adversaries at arm's length.’
    • ‘McConnell is notoriously territorial and will be tempted to keep Alexander at arm's length.’
    • ‘He deliberately kept his sister at arm's length; what few real close friends he had you could probably count on one hand.’
    • ‘Yet part of his great skill as a documentary-maker is his way of consulting all the experts, then keeping them at arm's length when he is making his decisions - precisely what has triggered the backlash.’
    • ‘But unlike the older star, Bardem has so far kept Hollywood at arm's length.’
    • ‘It feels dated and it keeps us at arm's length from the violence.’
    • ‘Debbie led a frugal life so she could send a large part of her salary to her family and kept male admirers at arm's length.’
    • ‘But they started off in the same way of trying to keep the press at arm's length and trying to control things.’
    • ‘Events become increasingly chaotic as Ellwood desperately tries to seal his deal while simultaneously keeping the suspicious sergeant at arm's length.’
    • ‘In fact, he is incapable of making lasting human relationships as we know them; his penchant for the truth will only allow him to keep people at arm's length.’
    • ‘For all their charms, Mamet's early films had a stagy, mannered quality that kept the viewer at arm's length.’
    • ‘McNealy has long fought to keep the government at arm's length from big business and says that too much intrusion could be enough to take the fun out of being a CEO.’
    • ‘She said that they still talked, but she kept him at arm's length; they were not as close.’
    • ‘There were some who never trusted me and kept me at arm's length and a few who had serious mental illnesses or developmental disabilities that made it impossible for us to develop a rapport.’
    • ‘And so, therefore, he's got to - he's got to keep us at arm's length.’
    • ‘I had a wonderful chance today but he kept me at arm's length.’
    • ‘While the contractors reassured us that they were keeping him at arm's length, we couldn't be entirely sure that they were not tempted by the prospect of some easy extra money on the back of our job.’
    • ‘His father has kept him at arm's length ever since his mother died giving birth to him; and his sister, the only one who seems to care much about him, is embarking on a rather troubled phase of her adolescence.’
    • ‘Mediæval kings may have been surrounded by importunate projectors and alchemists, but they mostly kept them at arm's length.’
    avoid, keep away from, stay away from, steer clear of, circumvent, give a wide berth to
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