fence / fens/ • n. 1. a barrier, railing, or other upright structure, typically of wood or wire, enclosing an area of ground to mark a boundary, control access, or prevent escape. ∎ a large upright obstacle used in equestrian jumping events.2. inf. a person who deals in stolen goods.• v. 1. [tr.] surround or protect with a fence: our garden was not fully fenced. ∎ (fence something in/off) enclose or separate with a fence for protection or to prevent escape: everything is fenced in to keep out the wolves. ∎ (fence someone/something out) use a barrier to exclude someone or something: Idaho law requires people to fence out cows.2. [tr.] inf. deal in (stolen goods): after stealing the ring, he didn't even know how to fence it.3. [intr.] fight with swords, esp. as a sport. ∎ fig. conduct a discussion or argument in such a way as to avoid the direct mention of something: we were fencing, not talking about the subject we'd come to talk about.PHRASES: side of the fence either of the opposing positions involved in a conflict: whatever side of the fence you are on, the issue is here to stay.sit on the fence avoid making a decision or choice.DERIVATIVES: fenc·er n.
sit on the fence avoid making a decision or choice. The two sides of a fence are seen in this and related idioms as representing the two opposing or conflicting positions or interests involved in a particular debate or situation.
see also good fences make good neighbours, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, mend one's fences.
Hence vb. enclose, screen, protect (lit. and fig.) XV; practise the ‘science’ of ‘defence’ with the sword XVI; (sl.) deal in stolen goods XVII.