English edit

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A fence (barrier)

Etymology edit

From Middle English fence, fens, short for defence, defens (the act of defending), from Old French defens, defense (see defence).

The sense "enclosure" arises in the mid 15th century. Also from the 15th century is use as a verb in the sense "to enclose with a fence". The generalized sense "to defend, screen, protect" arises ca. 1500. The sense "to fight with swords (rapiers)" is from the 1590s (Shakespeare).

Displaced native Old English heġe (compare Modern English hedge).

Pronunciation edit

  • IPA(key): /fɛns/, [fɛns], [fɛnts]
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛns

Noun edit

fence (countable and uncountable, plural fences)

  1. A thin artificial barrier that separates two pieces of land or forms a perimeter enclosing the lands of a house, building, etc.
    • 1865, Horatio Alger, chapter 17, in Paul Prescott's Charge:
      There was a weak place in the fence separating the two inclosures
    • 2013 June 8, “The new masters and commanders”, in The Economist[1], volume 407, number 8839, page 52:
      From the ground, Colombo’s port does not look like much. Those entering it are greeted by wire fences, walls dating back to colonial times and security posts. For mariners leaving the port after lonely nights on the high seas, the delights of the B52 Night Club and Stallion Pub lie a stumble away.
  2. (informal) Someone who hides or buys and sells stolen goods, a criminal middleman for transactions of stolen goods.
  3. (by extension) The place whence such a middleman operates.
  4. Skill in oral debate.
  5. (obsolete, uncountable) The art or practice of fencing.
  6. A guard or guide on machinery.
  7. (figuratively) A barrier, for example an emotional barrier.
    • 1980, ABBA (lyrics and music), “The Winner Takes It All”:
      I was in your arms
      Thinking I belonged there
      I figured it made sense
      Building me a fence
  8. (computing, programming) A memory barrier.

Hyponyms edit

Derived terms edit

Descendants edit

  • Pennsylvania German: Fens

Translations edit

See also edit

Verb edit

fence (third-person singular simple present fences, present participle fencing, simple past and past participle fenced)

  1. (transitive) To enclose, contain or separate by building fence.
  2. (transitive) To defend or guard.
    • 1594, Christopher Marlowe, Edward II[4], London: William Jones:
      Cosin, our hands I hope shall fence our heads,
      And strike off his that makes you threaten vs.
    • 1671, John Milton, Paradise Regain’d [] to which is added Samson Agonistes[5], London: John Starkey, Samson Agonistes, page 58, lines 937–938:
      [] I have learn’t
      To fence my ear against thy sorceries.
  3. (transitive) To engage in the selling or buying of stolen goods.
  4. (intransitive, sports) To engage in the sport of fencing.
    • 1921, Rafael Sabatini, Scaramouche:
      Challenges are flying right and left between these bully-swordsmen, these spadassinicides, and poor devils of the robe who have never learnt to fence with anything but a quill.
  5. (intransitive, equestrianism) To jump over a fence.
  6. (intransitive) To conceal the truth by giving equivocal answers; to hedge; to be evasive.
    • 1981, A. D. Hope, “His Coy Mistress to Mr. Marvell”, in A Book of Answers:
      A lady, sir, as you will find, / Keeps counsel, or she speaks her mind, / Means what she says and scorns to fence / And palter with feigned innocence.

Synonyms edit

  • (to sell or buy stolen goods): pawn

Derived terms edit

Translations edit

Czech edit

Pronunciation edit

Noun edit


  1. dative singular of fenka
    • 2013, Jana Holá, transl., Oběť Molochovi[6], Host, translation of Till offer åt Molok by Åsa Larsson, →ISBN, page 303:
      „Zmiz,“ zašeptá fence chraptivě do ucha.
      "Clear off," she whispers hoarsely to the bitch's ear.
  2. locative singular of fenka
    • 1969, Stanislav Budín, Dynastie Kennedyů, Praha: Naše vojsko, page 126:
      Chruščov se rozesmál a vyprávěl o nových sovětských družicích, o fence Lajce, která byla prvním živým tvorem ve vesmíru a nedávno vrhla štěňata.
      Khrushchev started laughing and talked about new Soviet satellites, about the bitch Laika, who was the first alive creature in space and who gave birth to her puppies not a long time ago.