from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A structure serving as an enclosure, a barrier, or a boundary, usually made of posts or stakes joined together by boards, wire, or rails.
  • noun An adjustable guide with a flat edge used on a table saw and positioned parallel to the plane of the cutting attachment in order to keep the board properly positioned for the cut to be made at the correct distance from the board's edge.
  • noun One who receives and sells stolen goods.
  • noun A place where stolen goods are received and sold.
  • noun Archaic A means of defense; a protection.
  • intransitive verb To surround or enclose with a fence or other barrier. synonym: enclose.
  • intransitive verb To separate or keep out by means of a fence or other barrier.
  • intransitive verb To sell (stolen goods) to a fence.
  • intransitive verb To ward off; keep away.
  • intransitive verb To defend.
  • intransitive verb To practice the art or sport of fencing.
  • intransitive verb To avoid giving direct answers; hedge.
  • intransitive verb To act as a conduit for stolen goods.
  • idiom (on the fence) Undecided as to which of two sides to support; uncommitted or neutral.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To defend; guard; hem in.
  • To obstruct approach to; divide off.
  • To inclose with a fence, as a wall, hedge, railing, or anything that prevents or might prevent entry or egress; secure by an inclosure.
  • To parry or thrust aside as if by fencing: with off.
  • To raise a fence; provide a guard.
  • To practise the art of fencing; use a sword or foil for the purpose of self-defense, or of learning the art of attack and defense.
  • To fight and defend by giving and avoiding blows or thrusts.
  • Figuratively, to parry arguments or strive by equivocation to baffle an examiner and conceal the truth, as a dishonest witness.
  • To deposit stolen property.
  • noun That which fends off; anything that restrains entrance, or defends from attack, approach, or injury; defense; guard.
  • noun An inclosure round a yard, field, or other tract of ground, or round or along the sides of any open space, as part of a large room, a bridge, etc.
  • noun A guard, guide, or gage designed to regulate or restrict the movement of a tool or machine.
  • noun An arm or a projection in a lock which enters the gates of the tumblers when they are adjusted in proper position and coincidence, and at other times prevents such movement of the dog or other obstructing member as would allow the bolt to be retracted.
  • noun The arm of the hammer-spring of a gun-lock.
  • noun The art of self-defense, especially by the sword; fencing; skill in fencing or sword-play; hence, skill in argument and repartee, especially adroitness in defending one's position and baffling an opponent's attacks.
  • noun A purchaser or receiver of stolen goods; the keeper of a place for the purchase or reception of stolen goods, or the place itself.
  • noun An inclosure in which fish are dried, cured, and prepared.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To fend off danger from; to give security to; to protect; to guard.
  • transitive verb To inclose with a fence or other protection; to secure by an inclosure.
  • transitive verb (Scot. Church) to make a solemn address to those who present themselves to commune at the Lord's supper, on the feelings appropriate to the service, in order to hinder, so far as possible, those who are unworthy from approaching the table.
  • intransitive verb To make a defense; to guard one's self of anything, as against an attack; to give protection or security, as by a fence.
  • intransitive verb To practice the art of attack and defense with the sword or with the foil, esp. with the smallsword, using the point only.
  • intransitive verb Hence, to fight or dispute in the manner of fencers, that is, by thrusting, guarding, parrying, etc.
  • noun That which fends off attack or danger; a defense; a protection; a cover; security; shield.
  • noun An inclosure about a field or other space, or about any object; especially, an inclosing structure of wood, iron, or other material, intended to prevent intrusion from without or straying from within.
  • noun (Locks) A projection on the bolt, which passes through the tumbler gates in locking and unlocking.
  • noun Self-defense by the use of the sword; the art and practice of fencing and sword play; hence, skill in debate and repartee. See Fencing.
  • noun Slang A receiver of stolen goods, or a place where they are received.
  • noun (Forest Law) the month in which female deer are fawning, when hunting is prohibited.
  • noun a covering for defense.
  • noun the breeding time of fish or game, when they should not be killed.
  • noun a fence made of rails, sometimes supported by posts.
  • noun a fence which encircles a large area, or a whole estate, within one inclosure.
  • noun a zigzag fence composed of rails crossing one another at their ends; -- called also snake fence, or Virginia rail fence.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English fens, short for defens, defense; see defense.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

The original meaning is "the act of defending", from Middle French defens (see defence), adopted in the 14th century. 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).


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