At arm”s length – Definition & Meaning

“At arm’s length” is a common idiom used in the English language to describe a certain distance or relationship between two individuals or entities. The phrase is often used to describe a situation in which two parties are not close or intimately involved with each other. In this article, we will explore the different definitions, origins, and meanings of the phrase “at arm’s length,” as well as its associations, synonyms, and antonyms.


The phrase “at arm’s length” can be defined in several different ways, depending on the context in which it is used. Some of the most common definitions of the phrase include:

  • At a distance that requires one to stretch out their arm to reach or touch something or someone.
  • At a distance that is considered safe or appropriate for maintaining a professional or formal relationship.
  • With a certain level of caution or reserve, as if one is keeping something or someone at a distance.


The origin of the phrase “at arm’s length” is unclear, but it is believed to have originated in medieval times. During this period, knights and soldiers would often fight with swords and other weapons, and it was common practice to keep one’s opponent at a safe distance by holding them at arm’s length. Over time, the phrase came to be used more broadly to describe any situation in which people kept a safe or formal distance from each other.

Meaning in different dictionaries

In most dictionaries, the phrase “at arm’s length” is defined as a distance that is considered safe or appropriate for maintaining a formal or professional relationship. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary defines the phrase as “at a distance that is considered appropriate for formal or.

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