a barrier enclosing or bordering a field, yard, etc., usually made of posts and wire or wood, used to prevent entrance, to confine, or to mark a boundary.
Informal. a person who receives and disposes of stolen goods.
the place of business of such a person.
the act, practice, art, or sport of fencing.
skill in argument, repartee, etc.
Machinery. a guard or guide, as for regulating the movements of a tool or work.
Carpentry. a slotted guide used especially with a framing square to lay out cuts on rafters and staircase strings.
Archaic. a means of defense; a bulwark.
verb (used with object), fenced, fencing.
to enclose by some barrier, establishing exclusive right to possession: to fence a farm.
to separate by or as by a fence or fences (often followed by in, off, out, etc.): to fence off a corner of one's yard; to fence out unwholesome influences.
to defend; protect; guard: The president was fenced by bodyguards wherever he went.
to ward off; keep out.
Informal. to sell (stolen goods) to a fence.
Nautical. to reinforce (an opening in a sail or the like) by sewing on a grommet or other device.
verb (used without object), fenced, fencing.
to practice the art or sport of fencing.
to parry arguments; strive to avoid giving direct answers; hedge: The mayor fenced when asked if he would run again.
(of a horse) to leap over a fence.
Obsolete. to raise a defense.
mend one's fences, to strengthen or reestablish one's position by conciliation or negotiation: One could tell by his superficially deferential manner that he was trying to mend his fences.
on the fence, uncommitted; neutral; undecided: The party leaders are still on the fence.

1300–50; Middle English fens, aphetic for defens defense

fencelike, adjective
outfence, verb (used with object), outfenced, outfencing.
refence, verb (used with object), refenced, refencing.
unfence, verb (used with object), unfenced, unfencing.
well-fenced, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
fence (fɛns)
1.  a structure that serves to enclose an area such as a garden or field, usually made of posts of timber, concrete, or metal connected by wire, netting, rails, or boards
2.  slang a dealer in stolen property
3.  an obstacle for a horse to jump in steeplechasing or showjumping
4.  machinery a guard or guide, esp in a circular saw or plane
5.  a projection usually fitted to the top surface of a sweptback aircraft wing to prevent movement of the airflow towards the wing tips
6.  mend one's fences
 a.  chiefly (US), (Canadian) to restore a position or reputation that has been damaged, esp in politics
 b.  to re-establish friendly relations (with someone)
7.  on the fence unable or unwilling to commit oneself
8.  informal (Austral), (NZ) over the fence unreasonable, unfair, or unjust
9.  sit on the fence to be unable or unwilling to commit oneself
10.  (tr) to construct a fence on or around (a piece of land, etc)
11.  (tr; foll by in or off) to close (in) or separate (off) with or as if with a fence: he fenced in the livestock
12.  (intr) to fight using swords or foils
13.  (intr) to evade a question or argument, esp by quibbling over minor points
14.  (intr) to engage in skilful or witty debate, repartee, etc
15.  slang (intr) to receive stolen property
16.  archaic (tr) to ward off or keep out
[C14 fens, shortened from defensdefence]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

early 14c., shortening of defens (see defense). Spelling alternated between -c- and -s- in M.E. Sense of "enclosure" is first recorded 1510s. Fencible (early 14c.) means "capable of making a defense." Sense of "dealer in stolen goods" is thieves' slang, first attested c.1700,
from notion of such transactions taking place under defense of secrecy. To be figuratively on the fence "uncommitted" is from 1828, from the notion of spectators at a fight.

"fight with swords," 1590s, first recorded in "Merry Wives of Windsor"; from the noun in this sense (1530s), see fence (n.). In spite of the re-enactment in 1285 of the Assize of Arms of 1181, fencing was regarded as unlawful in England. The keeping of fencing schools was
forbidden in the City of London, "as fools who delight in mischief do learn to fence with buckler, and thereby are encouraged in their follies."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Computing Dictionary

fence definition

1. A sequence of one or more distinguished (out-of-band) characters (or other data items), used to delimit a piece of data intended to be treated as a unit (the computer-science literature calls this a "sentinel"). The NUL (ASCII 0000000) character that terminates strings in C is a fence. Hex FF is also (though slightly less frequently) used this way. See zigamorph.
2. An extra data value inserted in an array or other data structure in order to allow some normal test on the array's contents also to function as a termination test. For example, a highly optimised routine for finding a value in an array might artificially place a copy of the value to be searched for after the last slot of the array, thus allowing the main search loop to search for the value without having to check at each pass whether the end of the array had been reached.
3. [among users of optimising compilers] Any technique, usually exploiting knowledge about the compiler, that blocks certain optimisations. Used when explicit mechanisms are not available or are overkill. Typically a hack: "I call a dummy procedure there to force a flush of the optimiser's register-colouring info" can be expressed by the shorter "That's a fence procedure".
[Jargon File]

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010 http://foldoc.org
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Bible Dictionary

Fence definition

(Heb. gader), Num. 22:24 (R.V.). Fences were constructions of unmortared stones, to protect gardens, vineyards, sheepfolds, etc. From various causes they were apt to bulge out and fall (Ps. 62:3). In Ps. 80:12, R.V. (see Isa. 5:5), the psalmist says, "Why hast thou broken down her fences?" Serpents delight to lurk in the crevices of such fences (Eccl. 10:8; comp. Amos 5:19).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


In addition to the idioms beginning with fence, also see mend one's fences; on the fence; straddle the fence.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
If you want to grow vegetables and you have rabbits in your area, you have to
  fence in your crops.
It's thrilling to see big browns with no fence or barrier between you and them.
Then they take a good running start and hurl themselves square into it, sending
  fence slats flying.
Imagine that you are looking at a dog that is standing behind a picket fence.
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