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noun, verb (used with or without object) Chiefly British.
  1. plow.
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Related formsun·ploughed, adjective


  1. an agricultural implement used for cutting, lifting, turning over, and partly pulverizing soil.
  2. any of various implements resembling or suggesting this, as a kind of plane for cutting grooves or a contrivance for clearing away snow from a road or track.
  3. Type Founding. (formerly) an instrument for cutting the groove in the foot of type.
  4. Bookbinding. a device for trimming the edges of the leaves by hand.
  5. (initial capital letter) Astronomy.
    1. the constellation Ursa Major.
    2. the Big Dipper.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to turn up (soil) with a plow.
  2. to make (a furrow) with a plow.
  3. to tear up, cut into, or make a furrow, groove, etc. in (a surface) with or as if with a plow (often followed by up): The tractor plowed up an acre of trees.
  4. to clear by the use of a plow, especially a snowplow (sometimes followed by out): The city's work crews were busily plowing the streets after the blizzard.
  5. to invest, as capital (often followed by into): to plow several hundred million into developing new oil fields.
  6. to reinvest or reutilize (usually followed by back): to plow profits back into new plants and equipment.
  7. (of a ship, boat, animal, etc.)
    1. to cleave the surface of (the water): beavers plowing the pond.
    2. to make (a way) or follow (a course) in this manner: The yacht plowed an easterly course through the choppy Atlantic.
  8. Slang: Vulgar. to have sexual intercourse with.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to till the soil or work with a plow.
  2. to take plowing in a specified way: land that plows easily.
  3. to move forcefully through something in the manner of a plow (often followed by through, into, along, etc.): The cop plowed through the crowd, chasing after the thief. The car plowed into our house.
  4. to proceed in a slow, laborious, and steady manner (often followed by through): The researcher plowed through a pile of reports.
  5. to move through water by cleaving the surface: a ship plowing through a turbulent sea.
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Verb Phrases
  1. plow under,
    1. to bury under soil by plowing.
    2. to cause to disappear; force out of existence; overwhelm: Many mom-and-pop groceries have been plowed under by the big chain stores.
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Also especially British, plough.

Origin of plow

before 1100; Middle English plouh, plugh(e), plough(e), Old English plōh; cognate with German Pflug plow
Related formsplow·a·ble, adjectiveplow·a·bil·i·ty, nounplow·er, nouno·ver·plow, verbre·plow, verb (used with object), re·plowed, re·plow·ing.sub·plow, nounsub·plow, verbun·plow·a·ble, adjectiveun·plowed, adjectivewell-plowed, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for plough

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The plough looks a bit glum, but she'll grow to like us presently.

  • Then he reached out both hands vaguely and touched the shaft of the plough.

  • She unbuttoned the mackintosh and spread it on the bar of the plough and sat down.

  • A harrow and a plough live there; they're sure to be at home on a day like this.

  • The action of the plough has often obliterated the traces of ancient barrows.

    English Villages

    P. H. Ditchfield

British Dictionary definitions for plough


esp US plow

  1. an agricultural implement with sharp blades, attached to a horse, tractor, etc, for cutting or turning over the earth
  2. any of various similar implements, such as a device for clearing snow
  3. a plane with a narrow blade for cutting grooves in wood
  4. (in agriculture) ploughed land
  5. put one's hand to the plough to begin or undertake a task
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  1. to till (the soil) with a plough
  2. to make (furrows or grooves) in (something) with or as if with a plough
  3. (when intr, usually foll by through) to move (through something) in the manner of a ploughthe ship ploughed the water
  4. (intr foll by through) to work at slowly or perseveringly
  5. (intr; foll by into or through) (of a vehicle) to run uncontrollably into something in its paththe plane ploughed into the cottage roof
  6. (tr; foll by in, up, under, etc) to turn over (a growing crop, manure, etc) into the earth with a plough
  7. (intr) British slang to fail an examination
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Derived Formsplougher or esp US plower, noun

Word Origin

Old English plōg plough land; related to Old Norse plogr, Old High German pfluoc


  1. the Plough the group of the seven brightest stars in the constellation Ursa MajorAlso known as: Charles's Wain Usual US name: the Big Dipper
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noun, verb
  1. the usual US spelling of plough
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Derived Formsplower, noun
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

Word Origin and History for plough

alternative spelling of plow. Related: Ploughed; ploughing.

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late Old English plog, ploh "plow; plowland" (a measure of land equal to what a yoke of oxen could plow in a day), possibly from a Scandinavian source (cf. Old Norse plogr "plow," Swedish and Danish plog), from Proto-Germanic *plogo- (cf. Old Saxon plog, Old Frisian ploch "plow," Middle Low German ploch, Middle Dutch ploech, Dutch ploeg, Old High German pfluog, German Pflug), a late word in Germanic, of uncertain origin. Old Church Slavonic plugu, Lithuanian plugas "plow" are Germanic loan-words, as probably is Latin plovus, plovum "plow," a word said by Pliny to be of Rhaetian origin.

Replaced Old English sulh, cognate with Latin sulcus "furrow." As a name for the star pattern also known as the Big Dipper or Charles's Wain, it is attested by early 15c., perhaps early 14c. The three "handle" stars (in the Dipper configuration) generally are seen as the team of oxen pulling the plow, though sometimes they are the handle.

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late 14c., from plow (n.). Transferred sense from 1580s. Related: Plowed; plowing.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper