Ring-fencing


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Ring fencing'?

Separating something from usual judgement and guaranteeing its protection, especially the funds of a project.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Ring fencing'?

This term has been in use since the 1980s to denote the funds that are set aside for a project and cannot be spent on anything else. Before that it had a more general meaning, of anything that was protected; for example, this comment from Roger Eliot Fry, in his Letters, from January 1903:

“B.B. [Bernard Berenson] should not have it said that he is capable of political scheming to ring-fence Italian art.”

These figurative uses all of course derive from the literal ‘ring-fences’ which were used to confine stock on farms.

Trend of ring – fencing in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.