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"Good walls make good neighbors" is another form of the saying "Strong fences make good neighbors."

This means that every person deserves his or her own space and privacy, and this privacy must be respected by the neighbors. In turn, the neighbors' privacy is equally respected. One has to resist the occasional temptation to be overly intimate with one's neighbors. According to this saying, the best neighbors are those who maintain their own family unit without becoming too familiar with the people next door.

A well-known American poem illustrates a slightly different meaning of the saying. Here is a partial version of the poem.

Robert Frost (1874–1963).

Mending Wall

SOMETHING there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast....

No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go....

There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense....

Marilyn Martin
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