Fence – and its lexicon

Fence is a unique word.  It can be a noun or a transitive verb.  Many people know its two meanings but very few know there is a third meaning.


‘A fence’ is a structure like a wall that separates two areas.

‘A fence’ can also mean an immaterial barrier or boundary as in the phrase ‘on the other side of the fence – in the argument’.

But did you know that ‘a fence’ can also mean a person who buys stolen property from thieves and sells it or a receiver of stolen goods or a place where stolen goods are bought.  I didn’t.


‘To fence’ means to put up a barrier around a place or area or to keep something or someone in or out with a fence.

‘To fence’ also means to fight with swords or to provide defense.

But did you know that ‘to fence’ also means to sell stolen property to a fence?  I didn’t.

You can use the word fence in offence, defence, fencing and fencer and you can add suffixes to it to get fenceless, fencelessness and fencerow.

But did you know that fencerow is not a row of fence but is actually the land occupied by a fence?  I didn’t.


Sitting on the fence or fence-sitting doesn’t mean literally sitting on the fence.  It is an idiom which means a state of indecision or neutrality with respect to conflicting positions.

But did you know that fence-mending has nothing to do with repairing your broken fence but it actually means the rehabilitating of a deteriorated political relationship?  I didn’t.

Enough said.  Now I know the lexicon of fence.

A joke:

John:  Where’s Bill?

Stan:  Attending to his fence.

John:  Oh!  He’s building a fence around his house?

Stan:  No! No!  He just got some loot from some robbers.


All meanings are from Merriam Webster Dictionary.


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