Definition of tug in English:



  • 1 Pull (something) hard or suddenly.

    ‘she tugged off her boots’
    [no object] ‘he tugged at Tom's coat sleeve’
    • ‘As he traipsed off tugging his shirt, he looked a little unhappy.’
    • ‘Slowly and steadily I reel it in, remembering Glyn's advice not to tug the hook too suddenly.’
    • ‘A yellow school bus pulled in front of us and Sera tugged my arm and James just followed us.’
    • ‘Jan grabs her braid and tugs it, ignoring her startled outcry.’
    • ‘She tugged at Rob's sleeve with just enough force to suggest that she would tug much harder if he did not comply with her wishes.’
    • ‘I hold it tightly as I step out, pulling the lever for the passenger seat and tug it forward.’
    • ‘She let out a strangled cry when he grabbed a handful of her hair and tugged her head back.’
    • ‘Soon Dougal turned over pulling the covers with him and she tugged them back over her.’
    • ‘It stuck like glue and no matter how hard he tugged it, it just wouldn't budge.’
    • ‘Max looked abruptly away and down, as if a small boy had suddenly tugged at his sleeve.’
    • ‘Rachael screamed, throwing herself down next to me and grabbing my arm, tugging it.’
    • ‘She scrambled to her feet, but a hand clutched around her ankle, tugging her back.’
    • ‘He murmured, gently tugging my arm and pulling me into his lap.’
    • ‘The old man grabbed hold of it and tugged it from its confinement, dragging it out into the driveway.’
    • ‘I pulled as hard as I could, tugging his arm, trying to get him back up to the forest floor.’
    • ‘I was going to throw away the thick wad of paper he gave me when Terry suddenly tugged at my arm.’
    • ‘On the field, they tug their opponents' shirts and fall over like skittles at the slightest contact.’
    • ‘He pulled a strap across her arms, tugged it tight and buckled it.’
    • ‘Cyril reached for his boots and tugged them on, and then pulled a shirt over his head.’
    • ‘She tugs Mike's arm, pulling him down into an awkward kneel.’
    pull, pluck
    drag, pull, draw, haul, heave, tow, trail
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Tow (a ship) by means of a tugboat.
      ‘the ships were tugged off the reefs’
      • ‘Recently, the ship was tugged back to the Steel yard and covered with a tarp for the winter where it will begin renovations.’
      • ‘He said the ship was being tugged to a shipwrecking yard when the tugboat's cables broke and high tides pushed the tanker to shallow water where it ran aground.’


  • 1A hard or sudden pull.

    ‘another tug and it came loose’
    figurative ‘an overwhelming tug of attraction’
    • ‘Tucking the end of the sash between my thumb and the palm of my hand, I gave a hard tug, undoing the knot.’
    • ‘Fiona gave the cloth a good, hard tug and stepped back, dusting her hands together.’
    • ‘Still holding the mast, Sydney grabbed at the bag, managing to rip it down after two hard tugs.’
    • ‘In frustration, she gave her hardest tug to yank the arrow out.’
    • ‘There was a sudden tug, and the cloak around his shoulders was torn away.’
    • ‘Unable to get it out with a simple tug, he pulled one of the two pistols out of his holster.’
    • ‘You give your ropes a tug and pull all the other man's pegs out.’
    • ‘He began drawing a detailed picture of an angel when a sudden tug on his shoulders nearly made him fall off the bench.’
    • ‘I felt a sudden tug on the stick and a horrible cracking sound.’
    • ‘We carried on running and a minute later I felt a hard tug on my arm.’
    • ‘I felt a small tug pull my robe; I turned to face a small child, staring up at me.’
    • ‘Reaching for the door handle, he grabbed it and gave it a hard tug.’
    • ‘Then he felt a sudden tug and the pad was wrenched from his grasp.’
    • ‘There was a hard tug and then it steadied out and I began to descend.’
    • ‘There was a sudden tug and then a rush of light and then he was out.’
    • ‘She woke up the next morning to feel a hard tug on her arm.’
    • ‘Before I knew what was going on, I felt a tug and was pulled into a warm embrace.’
    • ‘About 5 minutes later I felt a hard tug, and started reeling in the fish.’
    • ‘I took the edge of the blanket and gave it a hard tug pulling the whole thing off the bed.’
    • ‘He was frightened by her hard tug and the weight of his armor made him clatter to the floor.’
    pull, jerk, wrench, heave
    View synonyms
  • 2A small, powerful boat used for towing larger boats and ships, especially in harbour.

    • ‘Many parked their cars along River Road and either set up chairs or stood and watched as a tugboat nudged the ship into place.’
    • ‘Yesterday morning, three tugs pulled the 3,000-tonne vessel off the top of the wreck.’
    • ‘Smaller boats, including tugboats can also be seen moving about on the river.’
    • ‘The bridge swings open so massive cruise ships and small tugboats can enter the harbor.’
    • ‘‘The nearest boat to the tugboat was 40 nautical miles away and we managed to be there in about two hours,’ he said.’
    1. 2.1An aircraft towing a glider.
      • ‘It saw active service as a troop transport, glider tug, freighter, ferry aircraft, and ambulance, and was used for dropping parachute troops.’
      • ‘By 1960, only seven remained active as target tugs and radar calibration aircraft for the gunnery ranges ashore or the fleet guns.’
      • ‘Portability as well as being able to be flown from hang gliding flight parks using hang glider tugs has been the criteria for design.’
      • ‘There is an open question as to what the legal status of these operations would be after the exemption expires and our towing operations that use heavy tugs move to light-sport aircraft.’
      • ‘The hangar is already filling up with tugs and gliders.’
  • 3A loop from a horse's saddle which supports a shaft or trace.

    • ‘Most folks hang their shafts too low and you need to restrain the tug so it doesn't fly forward and backward as the animal performs maneuvers.’
    • ‘The tug straps loop through the gullet of the saddle and then buckle back to the collar.’


  • tug of love

    • informal A dispute over the custody of a child.

      [as modifier] ‘tug-of-love battles between adoptive and real parents’
      • ‘There is an inherent suspicion that a single male travelling with a child is involved in some kind of tug-of-love abduction saga, and is spiriting the youngster to any place where extradition treaties do not apply.’
      • ‘MORE THAN 100 children were caught up in long-distance tug-of-love battles between Ireland and other countries last year.’
      • ‘That's when emotions can get out of hand, and the child can be caught up in a tug-of-love over access.’
      • ‘A six-year-old girl is at the centre of an agonising tug-of-love in which she is being forced to choose between living with her mother and stepfather in England or with her father abroad.’
      • ‘A man whose granddaughter was taken away from his family in a tug-of-love court battle is writing a book about his ordeal.’
      • ‘A SIX-year-old girl caught up in a tug of love between her separated parents is safe and well with her father in Britain, Gardaí have confirmed.’
      • ‘It's deadlock, with only acrimonious court battles and a bitter tug-of-love to look forward to.’
      • ‘Basically, what transpired was a tug of love, with Owen in the middle.’
      • ‘Police hunting a man believed to have abducted his four-year-old daughter in a tug-of-love battle yesterday said they were following several encouraging leads after reported sightings of the pair abroad.’
      • ‘A desperate mum is still caught up in a tug-of-love battle over her three children, despite winning custody of them a year ago.’


Middle English: from the base of tow. The noun is first recorded ( late Middle English) in tug.