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[poo l] /pʊl/
verb (used with object)
to draw or haul toward oneself or itself, in a particular direction, or into a particular position:
to pull a sled up a hill.
to draw or tug at with force.
to rend or tear:
to pull a cloth to pieces.
to draw or pluck away from a place of growth, attachment, etc.:
to pull a tooth; to pull weeds.
to strip of feathers, hair, etc., as a bird or hide.
to draw out (as a knife or gun) for ready use (usually followed by on):
Do you know what to do when someone pulls a knife on you?
Informal. to perform successfully (often followed by off):
They pulled a spectacular coup.
Informal. to carry out (especially something deceitful or illegal):
Police believe the men pulled all three robberies. What kind of trick did she pull this time?
to put on or affect:
He pulled a long face when I reprimanded him.
to withdraw or remove:
to pull an ineffective pitcher.
to attract or win:
to pull many votes in the industrial areas.
to bring (a horse) to a stand by pulling on the reins.
Printing, Graphics. to take (an impression or proof) from type, a cut or plate, etc.:
to pull a print.
to be provided with or rowed with (a certain number of oars):
This boat pulls 12 oars.
to propel by rowing, as a boat.
to strain (a muscle, ligament, or tendon).
Military. to be assigned (a specific task or duty):
I pulled guard duty our first night in port.
to hold in or check (a racehorse), especially so as to prevent from winning.
Sports. to hit (a ball) so that it travels in a direction opposite to the side from which it was struck, as when a right-handed batter hits into left field.
verb (used without object)
to exert a drawing, tugging, or hauling force (often followed by at).
to inhale through a pipe, cigarette, etc.
to become or come as specified, by being pulled:
This rope will pull.
to row.
to proceed by rowing.
  1. to have effectiveness, as specified:
    The ad pulled badly.
  2. to be effective:
    That spot announcement really pulled!
the act of pulling or drawing.
force used in pulling; pulling power.
a drawing in of smoke or a liquid through the mouth:
He took a long, thoughtful pull on his pipe; I took a pull from the scout's canteen.
Informal. influence, as with persons able to grant favors.
a part or thing to be pulled; a handle or the like:
to replace the pulls on a chest of drawers.
a spell, or turn, at rowing.
a stroke of an oar.
Informal. a pulled muscle:
He missed a week's work with a groin pull.
a pulling of the ball, as in baseball or golf.
Informal. the ability to attract; drawing power.
Informal. an advantage over another or others.
Verb phrases
pull away,
  1. to move or draw back or away; withdraw.
  2. to free oneself with force:
    He tried to pull away from his opponent's powerful grip.
  3. to move or start to move ahead:
    The car pulled away into traffic. The faster runners began to pull away from the others.
pull down,
  1. to draw downward:
    to pull a shade down.
  2. to demolish; wreck.
  3. to lower; reduce.
  4. Informal. to receive as a salary; earn:
    It wasn't long before he was pulling down more than fifty thousand a year.
pull for, to support actively; encourage:
They were pulling for the Republican candidate.
pull in,
  1. to reach a place; arrive:
    The train pulled in early.
  2. to tighten; curb:
    to pull in the reins.
  3. Informal. to arrest (someone):
    The police pulled her in for questioning.
pull off, Informal. to perform successfully, especially something requiring courage, daring, or shrewdness:
We'll be rich if we can pull the deal off.
pull out,
  1. to leave; depart:
    The ship pulled out of the harbor.
  2. to abandon abruptly:
    to pull out of an agreement.
pull over, to direct one's automobile or other vehicle to the curb; move out of a line of traffic:
The police officer told the driver to pull over.
pull through, to come safely through (a crisis, illness, etc.); survive:
The patient eventually pulled through after having had a close brush with death.
pull up,
  1. to bring or come to a halt.
  2. to bring or draw closer.
  3. to root up; pull out:
    She pulled up all the crab grass in the lawn.
pull apart, to analyze critically, especially to point out errors:
The professor proceeded to pull the student's paper apart.
pull oneself together, to recover one's self-control; regain command of one's emotions:
It was only a minor accident, but the driver couldn't seem to pull himself together.
pull someone's leg. leg (def 24).
pull the plug on. plug (def 35).
Origin of pull
before 1000; Middle English pullen (v.), Old English pullian to pluck, pluck the feathers of, pull, tug; compare Middle Low German pūlen to strip off husks, pick, Old Norse pūla to work hard
Related forms
pullable, adjective
puller, noun
2. push.
Synonym Study
2. See draw. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for pull away
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She had begun to pull away in alarm when he seized her wrist.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • pull away these bars that have got fixed between the door and the ground; and let us in.'

    Barnaby Rudge Charles Dickens
  • “The camp is just around the hill,” murmured Dicksie, trying to pull away.

    Whispering Smith Frank H. Spearman
  • "I—I—didn't know you knew me," she said, trying to be polite and not pull away.

    Cricket at the Seashore Elizabeth Westyn Timlow
  • She did not pull away her hand; it was as if she had not thought of it.

    The Patrician John Galsworthy
  • He did not pull away, or show that he hated it, as lots of fellows would have done.

    Peterkin Mary Louisa Molesworth
  • But instead of this we were ordered by the mate to pull away from it.

    Cast Away in the Cold

    Isaac I. Hayes
British Dictionary definitions for pull away


verb (mainly transitive)
(also intransitive) to exert force on (an object) so as to draw it towards the source of the force
to exert force on so as to remove; extract: to pull a tooth
to strip of feathers, hair, etc; pluck
to draw the entrails from (a fowl)
to rend or tear
to strain (a muscle, ligament, or tendon) injuriously
(usually foll by off) (informal) to perform or bring about: to pull off a million-pound deal
(often foll by on) (informal) to draw out (a weapon) for use: he pulled a knife on his attacker
(informal) to attract: the pop group pulled a crowd
(also intransitive) (slang) to attract (a sexual partner)
(intransitive; usually foll by on or at) to drink or inhale deeply: to pull at one's pipe, pull on a bottle of beer
to put on or make (a grimace): to pull a face
(also intransitive; foll by away, out, over, etc) to move (a vehicle) or (of a vehicle) be moved in a specified manner: he pulled his car away from the roadside
(printing) to take (a proof) from type
to withdraw or remove: the board decided to pull their support
(sport) to hit (a ball) so that it veers away from the direction in which the player intended to hit it (to the left for a right-handed player)
(cricket) to hit (a ball pitched straight or on the off side) to the leg side
(hurling) to strike (a fast-moving ball) in the same direction as it is already moving
(also intransitive) to row (a boat) or take a stroke of (an oar) in rowing
to be rowed by: a racing shell pulls one, two, four, or eight oars
(of a rider) to restrain (a horse), esp to prevent it from winning a race
(intransitive) (of a horse) to resist strongly the attempts of a rider to rein in or check it
(slang) pull a fast one, to play a sly trick
pull apart, pull to pieces, to criticize harshly
(Austral, informal) pull your head in, be quiet!
pull one's punches
  1. (informal) to restrain the force of one's criticisms or actions
  2. (boxing) to restrain the force of one's blows, esp when deliberately losing after being bribed, etc
(informal) pull one's weight, to do one's fair or proper share of a task
(informal) pull strings, to exercise personal influence, esp secretly or unofficially
(informal) pull someone's leg, to make fun of, fool, or tease someone
an act or an instance of pulling or being pulled
the force or effort used in pulling: the pull of the moon affects the tides on earth
the act or an instance of taking in drink or smoke
something used for pulling, such as a knob or handle
(informal) special advantage or influence: his uncle is chairman of the company, so he has quite a lot of pull
(informal) the power to attract attention or support
a period of rowing
a single stroke of an oar in rowing
the act of pulling the ball in golf, cricket, etc
the act of checking or reining in a horse
the amount of resistance in a bowstring, trigger, etc
Derived Forms
puller, noun
Word Origin
Old English pullian; related to Icelandic pūla to beat
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for pull away



c.1300, "to move forcibly by pulling, to drag," from Old English pullian "to pluck off (wool), to draw out," of unknown origin, perhaps related to Low German pulen "remove the shell or husk," Frisian pûlje "to shell, husk," Middle Dutch polen "to peel, strip," Icelandic pula "work hard."

Early 14c. as "to pick, pull off, gather" (fruit, flowers, berries, leaves, petals, etc.); mid-14c. as "to uproot, pull up" (of teeth, weeds, etc.). Sense of "to draw, attract" (to oneself) is from c.1400; sense of "to pluck at with the fingers" is from c.1400. Meaning "tear to pieces" is mid-15c. By late 16c. it had replaced draw in these senses. Related: Pulled; pulling.

Common in slang usages 19c.-20c.; Bartlett (1859) has to pull foot "walk fast; run;" pull it "to run." To pull up "check a course of action" is from 1808, figurative of the lifting of the reins in horse-riding. To pull (someone's) chain in figurative sense is from 1974, perhaps on the notion of a captive animal; the expression was also used for "to contact" (someone), on the notion of the chain that operates a signaling mechanism.

To pull (someone's) leg is from 1882, perhaps on notion of "playfully tripping" (cf. pull the long bow "exaggerate," 1830, and pulling someone's leg also sometimes was described as a way to awaken a sleeping person in a railway compartment, ship's berth, etc.). Thornton's "American Glossary" (1912) has pull (n.) "a jest" (to have a pull at (someone)), which it identifies as "local" and illustrates with an example from the Massachusetts "Spy" of May 21, 1817, which identifies it as "a Georgian phrase." To pull (one's) punches is from 1920 in pugilism, from 1921 figuratively. To pull in "arrive" (1892) and pull out "depart" (1868) are from the railroads.

To pull (something) off "accomplish, succeed at" is originally in sporting, "to win the prize money" (1870). To pull (something) on (someone) is from 1916; to pull (something) out of one's ass is Army slang from 1970s. To pull rank is from 1919; to pull the rug from under (someone) figuratively is from 1946.



c.1300, "a fishing net;" mid-14c., "a turn at pulling," from pull (v.). From mid-15c. as "an act of pulling." Meaning "personal or private influence" is by 1889, American English, from earlier sense "power to pull (and not be pulled by)" a rival or competitor (1580s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for pull away



  1. Influence; special power or favor; clout: irregularities and instances of political pull (1886+)
  2. A gulp of a drink, a puff on a cigarette, etc: I took a big pull at my drink and looked up (1575+)


  1. To drink; take a swallow: a 17-year-old kid pulling on a beer (1436+)
  2. also pull down) To earn; receive: I pulled an A on the quiz/ The seven magazines pull down nearly $700 million a year (1937+, variant 1917+)
  3. To do; perform; effect, esp a trick or shady act: What are they trying to pull now? (1916+)

Related Terms


The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with pull away

pull away

Move away or withdraw, as in The car pulled away from the curb. [ Mid-1900s ]
Move ahead or forward, as in His horse pulled away and took the lead.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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