Definition of tug in English:



  • Pull (something) hard or suddenly.

    ‘she tugged off her boots’
    [no object] ‘he tugged at Tom's coat sleeve’
    • ‘On the field, they tug their opponents' shirts and fall over like skittles at the slightest contact.’
    • ‘Jan grabs her braid and tugs it, ignoring her startled outcry.’
    • ‘I pulled as hard as I could, tugging his arm, trying to get him back up to the forest floor.’
    • ‘Cyril reached for his boots and tugged them on, and then pulled a shirt over his head.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Rachael screamed, throwing herself down next to me and grabbing my arm, tugging it.’
    • ‘He pulled a strap across her arms, tugged it tight and buckled it.’
    • ‘It stuck like glue and no matter how hard he tugged it, it just wouldn't budge.’
    • ‘The old man grabbed hold of it and tugged it from its confinement, dragging it out into the driveway.’
    • ‘She scrambled to her feet, but a hand clutched around her ankle, tugging her back.’
    • ‘Max looked abruptly away and down, as if a small boy had suddenly tugged at his sleeve.’
    • ‘A yellow school bus pulled in front of us and Sera tugged my arm and James just followed us.’
    • ‘Slowly and steadily I reel it in, remembering Glyn's advice not to tug the hook too suddenly.’
    • ‘She tugs Mike's arm, pulling him down into an awkward kneel.’
    • ‘Soon Dougal turned over pulling the covers with him and she tugged them back over her.’
    • ‘As he traipsed off tugging his shirt, he looked a little unhappy.’
    • ‘I was going to throw away the thick wad of paper he gave me when Terry suddenly tugged at my arm.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He murmured, gently tugging my arm and pulling me into his lap.’
    drag, pull, draw, haul, heave, tow, trail
    pull, pluck
    View synonyms


  • 1A hard or sudden pull.

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

    short for tugboat
    • ‘The bridge swings open so massive cruise ships and small tugboats can enter the harbor.’
    • ‘Yesterday morning, three tugs pulled the 3,000-tonne vessel off the top of the wreck.’
    • ‘‘The nearest boat to the tugboat was 40 nautical miles away and we managed to be there in about two hours,’ he said.’
    • ‘Many parked their cars along River Road and either set up chairs or stood and watched as a tugboat nudged the ship into place.’
    • ‘Smaller boats, including tugboats can also be seen moving about on the river.’
    1. 2.1An aircraft towing a glider.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Portability as well as being able to be flown from hang gliding flight parks using hang glider tugs has been the criteria for design.’
      • ‘The hangar is already filling up with tugs and gliders.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 3A loop from a horse's saddle that supports a shaft or trace.

    • ‘The tug straps loop through the gullet of the saddle and then buckle back to the collar.’
    • ‘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.’


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