What does the English phrase "fence building" mean?

Ex. usage: "You're gonna have to do some fence building.", which, from the context I heard it in (relationships between friends), seems to have the sense that of "repairing wrongs one has done to another." Is that correct?

1 Answer 1


The phrase has an evolving history. Its origins lie in the idiom "good fences make good neighbors", which is to say when you draw the lines in a relationship clearly then the involved parties are less likely to accidentally violate the expected rules.

This is still a pretty common idiom, however, "mending fences" or its derivative "fence building" has a somewhat different meaning. These expressions rather mean repairing broken relationships. This may be by re-establishing boundaries, but not necessarily, it specifically means re-establishing the relationship.

The idiom is a little misleading, what you are rebuilding is the relationship rather than the tool that facilitated the relationship, however idioms and etymology are not an exact science.

See this interesting article:

Mending Fences

Here is Wiktionary on the phrase itself.


  • Yes, that's correct; relationships between people was also part of the context I heard it in.
    – Geremia
    Oct 14, 2014 at 4:27

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