Give a wide berth

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Literally, give a wide berth is a phrase that dates back to the seventeenth century meaning to allow a large space between ships to enable optimum safety and maneuverability. Today, there is also a figurative meaning to the phrase give a wide berth, meaning to steer clear of someone or something, to keep your distance from someone or something, to avoid someone or something. The first use of the phrase give a wide berth in the figurative sense was by Sir Walter Scott in 1829. Related phrases are gives a wide berth, gave a wide berth, giving a wide berth.


Based on analysis of accident claims figures for 2015, the insurer 1st Central has concluded that the drivers the rest of us would be best advised to give a wide berth to fit none of the stereotypes and are typically middle class, middle aged, professional and – in all likelihood – male. (The Telegraph)

“Motorists really do need to slow down when they are near horses and give a wide berth when overtaking. (The Leicester Mercury)

Since most of the island’s Jewish sites are near Kingston, the strategy of developing the city as a Jewish heritage cultural destination fit the government’s desire to boost tourism in the scruffy, crime- and ganja-ridden capital which most vacationers give a wide berth. (The Jerusalem Post)

Simply give a wide berth to any snakes and enjoy them from a distance, is the park’s advice. (The Akron Beacon Journal)

Once a corner of Kuala Lumpur that taxi drivers gave a wide berth to, it’s since evolved into one of the city’s most desirable and discerning districts. (The Evening Standard)

Police in Baltimore this week gave a wide berth to demonstrators, avoiding the paramilitary tactics used in Ferguson, Missouri, where protests turned violent. (The Grand Forks Herald)