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 formspull·a·ble, adjectivepull·er, noun

Synonym study

2. See draw.

Antonyms for pull

2. push. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for pull

tear, haul, rip, tow, pluck, trail, drag, remove, pick, stretch, tug, yank, win, draw, get, cull, evolve, dislocate, rend, jerk

Examples from the Web for pull

Contemporary Examples of pull

Historical Examples of pull

  • She had begun to pull away in alarm when he seized her wrist.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • In such a case he would have told the lady not to pull his leg.


    William J. Locke

  • I was forced to turn my face from them, and pull out my handkerchief.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • If he exposed himself, would not the three of them pull their guns?

  • You pull down, you despoil; but they build up, they restore.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

British Dictionary definitions for pull


verb (mainly tr)

(also intr) 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; extractto 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 aboutto pull off a million-pound deal
(often foll by on) informal to draw out (a weapon) for usehe pulled a knife on his attacker
informal to attractthe pop group pulled a crowd
(also intr) slang to attract (a sexual partner)
(intr; usually foll by on or at) to drink or inhale deeplyto pull at one's pipe; pull on a bottle of beer
to put on or make (a grimace)to pull a face
(also intr; foll by away, out, over, etc) to move (a vehicle) or (of a vehicle) be moved in a specified mannerhe pulled his car away from the roadside
printing to take (a proof) from type
to withdraw or removethe 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 intr) to row (a boat) or take a stroke of (an oar) in rowing
to be rowed bya racing shell pulls one, two, four, or eight oars
(of a rider) to restrain (a horse), esp to prevent it from winning a race
(intr) (of a horse) to resist strongly the attempts of a rider to rein in or check it
pull a fast one slang to play a sly trick
pull apart or pull to pieces to criticize harshly
pull your head in Australian informal be quiet!
pull one's punches
  1. informalto restrain the force of one's criticisms or actions
  2. boxingto restrain the force of one's blows, esp when deliberately losing after being bribed, etc
pull one's weight informal to do one's fair or proper share of a task
pull strings informal to exercise personal influence, esp secretly or unofficially
pull someone's leg informal to make fun of, fool, or tease someone


an act or an instance of pulling or being pulled
the force or effort used in pullingthe 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 influencehis 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 Formspuller, noun

Word Origin for pull

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

Word Origin and History for pull

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

Idioms and Phrases with pull


In addition to the idioms beginning with pull

  • pull a boner
  • pull a fast one
  • pull away
  • pull back
  • pull down
  • pull in
  • pulling teeth
  • pull in one's horns
  • pull no punches
  • pull off
  • pull oneself together
  • pull oneself up by the bootstraps
  • pull one's punches
  • pull one's weight
  • pull out
  • pull out all the stops
  • pull out of a hat
  • pull over
  • pull rank
  • pull round
  • pull someone's chain
  • pull someone's leg
  • pull something
  • pull strings
  • pull the plug on
  • pull the rug out from under
  • pull the wool over someone's eyes
  • pull through
  • pull together
  • pull up
  • pull up stakes
  • pull wires

also see:

  • fast one, pull a
  • have pull with
  • like pulling teeth
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.