From bay (“excited howling of dogs”).
- (set phrase, idiomatic) Unable to come closer; at a distance.
- 1889, Lewis Carroll, Sylvie and Bruno, preface:
- These two books of sacred, and secular, passages for memory—will serve other good purposes besides merely occupying vacant hours: they will help to keep at bay many anxious thoughts, worrying thoughts, uncharitable thoughts, unholy thoughts.
2011 October 23, Becky Ashton, “QPR 1 - 0 Chelsea”, in BBC Sport:
- The home side grew in confidence after keeping the visitors at bay and took the lead after only nine minutes, from their first foray into the penalty area.
- (set phrase, idiomatic) Cornered; unable to flee.
1918, Edgar Rice Burroughs, chapter X, in The Land That Time Forgot:
- For a moment my gaze traversed the landscape beneath until it was caught and held by four figures near the base of the cliff—a human figure held at bay by three hyaenodons, those ferocious and blood-thirsty wild dogs of the Eocene.
- 2004, November 22, Valerie Elliott, “Two-dog plan to keep law at bay”, in The Times:
- Instead of mounted riders following a pack of hounds, it is envisaged that just two dogs will be used to locate a stag and hold it at bay.
unable to come closer