verb (used with object), fenced, fenc·ing.
verb (used without object), fenced, fenc·ing.
- fence in,
- fence lizard,
- fence with,
Origin of fence
- mainly US and Canadian to restore a position or reputation that has been damaged, esp in politics
- to re-establish friendly relations (with someone)
Word Origin for fence
early 14c., "action of defending," shortening of defens (see defense). Spelling alternated between -c- and -s- in Middle English. Sense of "enclosure" is first recorded mid-15c. on notion of "that which serves as a defense." Sense of "dealer in stolen goods" is thieves' slang, first attested c.1700, from notion of such transactions taking place under defense of secrecy. To be figuratively on the fence "uncommitted" is from 1828, perhaps from the notion of spectators at a fight, or a simple literal image: "A man sitting on the top of a fence, can jump down on either side with equal facility." [Bartlett, "Dictionary of Americanisms," 1848].
Also, hem in. Restrict or confine someone, as in He wanted to take on more assignments but was fenced in by his contract, or Their father was old-fashioned and the children were hemmed in by his rules. Both expressions transfer a literal form of enclosure to a figurative one. The first gained currency from a popular song in the style of a cowboy folk song by Cole Porter, “Don't Fence Me In” (1944), in which the cowboy celebrates open land and starry skies. The variant is much older, dating from the late 1500s.
In addition to the idioms beginning with fence
- fence in
- fence with
- mend one's fences
- on the fence
- straddle the fence