wide berth

a wide berth

Meaning

  • avoid (a person, place, or circumstance)
  • stay away from
  • keep away from somebody
  • sizeable allotment
  • mitigate collision

Example Sentences

  1. When walking through the yard, make sure you leave a wide berth for the dog, or he may bite you.
  2. Go ahead and back your truck into this spot; there’s a wide berth available.
  3. After throwing the toy at his little sister, Joey gave her a wide berth for the remainder of the evening to avoid retaliation.
  4. Keep a wide berth between any liquids and electronics; you never want them to come into contact.
  5. As introverted of a person as Jude is, he always makes sure to give a wide berth to those he walks past.
  6. He has fallen out with her adviser and has been giving her a wide berth for a couple of months.

Origin

Dating back to the 17th century as a common nautical term, “berth” simply refers to an allotted space at a pier or quay in which a boat or ship can be moored. Analogically speaking, a modern parking lot is to a dock what a modern parking space is to a berth. As time continued, the phrase came to define more than just the area in which a ship could be moored. It defined all of the sea areas between the ship and any given place, direction, or object.

Four centuries have since passed, and if you are involved in nautical activities of almost any sort, you are likely still using the term in the same context as it has always been intended. However, for those of us who are land-lovers, “wide berth” refers more to the act of keeping a distance from something or someone, rather than paying attention to a space. However, it can still carry a very similar context in reference to any dimensional space recommendation, whether on land or water. (See Example Sentence No. 1).

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