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The meaning and origin of the expression: Ring-fencing

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Ring-fencing

Meaning

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

Origin

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.