I need a word or words for fences which invoke a feeling of 'looking through bars'.

Take a popular type of fence around properties: typically black, spear-like bars with pointy tops, with a couple of horizontal rails: picket fence.

black steel fence

I went through a couple of thesauruses and there seems to be precious little synonyms without going into things like barricades and ditches. The phrase I have in mind is: "I stare at/through the rusting railing" and I want to emphasise the aspect of an obstacle making something visible, but unreachable. I chose railing for rhyming potential, and while it can apparently be of any height, I fear it has wrong connotations: of something much shorter in general, with the focus on a single horizontal top rail like along stairs, which would severely clash with my intent.

Now, the fact that it is a property fence has been already established, so if saying something like 'looking through the pickets' or whatsies doesn't sound unnatural, it could certainly do. Sorry for being picky, but, one, I simply cannot rhyme 'fence' with something that would fit my purpose and, two, it is somewhat abstract and I don't think that it has an immediate visual association I am going for.

  • 1
    Railings can be any height. Jan 27, 2021 at 7:35
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    You asked the same question here on October 7 2020. What is unsatisfactory about the answers you got there? Jan 27, 2021 at 7:40
  • You're getting confused between a rail, which is horizontal, and railings, which are vertical. Also, they don't have to go together. Jan 27, 2021 at 7:46
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    A fence with spikes on top (as you've pictured) is called a palisade fence, a steel palisade, or a steel palisade fence. This type of fencing is used for security; you can see through it (so trespassers cannot hide behind it like they could a brick wall), but trespassers are prevented from going over it (because of its height and spikes). Jan 27, 2021 at 14:19

1 Answer 1


In the U.S. a wrought iron fence is the general term for what is being called railings in the other post. I think it's another AmE/BrE thing. I would never call those things railings. Railings are what you hold onto when you walk up stairs, more appropriately called bannisters.

I imagine there will be a pedantic response as to the chemical composition of wrought iron and what configurations may or may not apply. But wrought iron fence is understood as metal barred fence (often black).

  • 1
    Steel Fence also seems to be used to refer to that type of fence. Probably a generational thing
    – EllieK
    Jan 27, 2021 at 15:08

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