The expression "give a wide berth" refers to staying away from something or someone to avoid trouble or danger. The phrase can be used in both literal and figurative contexts. If you've ever been advised to give a wide berth to someone or something, you were being asked to keep a safe distance.
"Give a wide berth" means to steer clear of something to avoid trouble or danger.
The phrase "give a wide berth" indicates avoiding something or someone to prevent trouble or inconvenience. In a broader sense, it means to steer clear of a person, place, or situation that might cause harm, discomfort, or annoyance. The phrase can be used in both literal and figurative contexts, advising or describing the act of maintaining a safe distance or avoiding involvement.
Let's dive into its core meanings and usage:
The expression originated from nautical terminology, where "berth" referred to a location where a ship was moored. To "give a wide berth" meant to sail a ship at a safe distance from a particular obstacle to avoid collision. Over time, it adopted a figurative meaning, which we use today to indicate staying away from possible dangers or annoyances.
“...for she (the ship) had not only to give a wide berth to the floating battery, but to avoid the islands of ice...” - from "Narrative of a Second Expedition to the Shores of the Polar Sea" by Sir John Franklin, 1828.
This piece from Sir John Franklin's narrative uses the term in its original nautical context, illustrating a careful maneuvering strategy to avoid obstacles in the ship's path.
Below are ten examples demonstrating how "give a wide berth" can be used in various sentences:
These examples clearly illustrate the versatility of the phrase, used in various contexts to suggest avoidance or maintaining distance.
While "give a wide berth" may not be prominently featured in popular media, it is occasionally used in literature and films to accentuate the element of avoiding danger or discomfort. Some real examples include:
Although not extensively used, the phrase finds its place in caution and strategic avoidance narratives.
There are numerous ways to express the same idea as "give a wide berth."
Here's a list of alternatives:
It means to stay away from someone or something to avoid potential trouble or danger.
The phrase has nautical origins, referring to keeping a safe distance while sailing to avoid collisions.
Yes, it can imply giving someone space out of respect or to avoid intruding on their privacy.
Yes, it is used to advise caution and to steer clear of potential problems.
No, it can also refer to avoiding topics of conversation or steering clear of certain situations.
The phrase is used globally, understood in many English-speaking regions.
Yes, phrases like “steer clear of,” “avoid,” “shun,” can be used as synonyms.
Yes, it appears in literature, especially in contexts involving navigation or avoiding danger.
No, it can be used in lighter contexts, like avoiding someone who talks too much.
Yes, it can be employed in a playful or humorous manner to exaggerate a situation for comedic effect.
The phrase "give a wide berth" is a nautical term initially referring to steering a ship far away from something to avoid collision. In a broader sense, the phrase means avoiding someone or something physically or metaphorically to steer clear of potential trouble or inconvenience.
Here's a quick wrap-up:
Whether you are guiding someone to keep a physical distance from something potentially dangerous or recommending avoiding a problematic person or topic, "give a wide"berth" can be a usefull phrase to communicate caution and prudence.