pull punches,
    1. to lessen deliberately the force of one's blows.
    2. act with restraint or hold back the full force or implications of something: He wasn't going to pull any punches when he warned them of what they would be up against.
    roll with the punches, Informal. to cope with and survive adversity: In the business world you quickly learn to roll with the punches.

Origin of punch

1350–1400; Middle English punchen (v.); apparently variant of pounce1
Related formspunch·er, noun

Synonyms for punch




a tool or machine for perforating or stamping materials, driving nails, etc.
the solid upper die of a punch press, used with a hollow die to blank out shaped pieces of sheet metal or the like.

verb (used with object)

to cut, stamp, pierce, perforate, form, or drive with a tool or machine that punches.

verb (used without object)

to work at or on something with or as if with a mechanical punch.

Origin of punch

1495–1505; short for puncheon2, reinforced by punch1
Related formspunch·a·ble, adjective




a beverage consisting of wine or spirits mixed with fruit juice, soda, water, milk, or the like, and flavored with sugar, spices, etc.
a beverage of two or more fruit juices, sugar, and water, sometimes carbonated.

Origin of punch

First recorded in 1625–35; of uncertain origin




the chief male character in a Punch-and-Judy show.

Origin of Punch

short for punchinello Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for punch

blow, shot, stroke, jab, slap, bite, poke, stab, drill, clip, jog, clout, slam, rap, belt, nudge, pummel, sock, thump, strike

Examples from the Web for punch

Contemporary Examples of punch

Historical Examples of punch

  • This operation is performed by the aid of a punch and die fitted into a screw-press.

  • This affair had set us drinking, and I got a good deal of punch aboard.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • Well, then, I will turn back with you; but the punch will all be gone, mark my words.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic

  • But this time the cigar and the punch seemed to fail of their effect.

    Night and Morning, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

  • Carton, still drinking the punch, rejoined, "Why should I be astonished?"

    A Tale of Two Cities

    Charles Dickens

British Dictionary definitions for punch




to strike blows (at), esp with a clenched fist
(tr) Western US to herd or drive (cattle), esp for a living
(tr) to poke or prod with a stick or similar object
punch above one's weight to do something that is considered to be beyond one's ability


a blow with the fist
informal telling force, point, or vigourhis arguments lacked punch
pull one's punches See pull (def. 26)
Derived Formspuncher, noun

Word Origin for punch

C15: perhaps a variant of pounce ²




a tool or machine for piercing holes in a material
any of various tools used for knocking a bolt, rivet, etc, out of a hole
a tool or machine used for stamping a design on something or shaping it by impact
the solid die of a punching machine for cutting, stamping, or shaping material
computing a device, such as a card punch or tape punch, used for making holes in a card or paper tape


(tr) to pierce, cut, stamp, shape, or drive with a punch

Word Origin for punch

C14: shortened from puncheon, from Old French ponçon; see puncheon ²




any mixed drink containing fruit juice and, usually, alcoholic liquor, generally hot and spiced

Word Origin for punch

C17: perhaps from Hindi pānch, from Sanskrit pañca five; the beverage originally included five ingredients



the main character in the traditional children's puppet show Punch and Judy
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 punch

"to thrust, push; jostle;" also, "prod, to drive (cattle, etc.) by poking and prodding," late 14c., from Old French ponchonner "to punch, prick, stamp," from ponchon "pointed tool, piercing weapon" (see punch (n.1)). Meaning "to pierce, emboss with a tool" is from early 15c.; meaning "to stab, puncture" is from mid-15c. To punch a ticket, etc., is from mid-15c. To punch the clock "record one's arrival at or departure from the workplace using an automated timing device" is from 1900. Related: Punched; punching.

Perhaps you are some great big chief, who has a lot to say.
Who lords it o'er the common herd who chance to come your way;
Well, here is where your arrogance gets a dreadful shock,
When you march up, like a private, salute, and PUNCH THE CLOCK.

[from "Punch the Clock," by "The Skipper," "The Commercial Telegraphers' Journal," May 1912]

Specialized sense "to hit with the fist" first recorded 1520s. Cf. Latin pugnare "to fight with the fists," from a root meaning "to pierce, sting." In English this was probably influenced by punish; "punch" or "punsch" for "punish" is found in documents from 14c.-15c.:

punchyth me, Lorde, and spare my blyssyd wyff Anne. [Coventry Mystery Plays, late 15c.]

To punch (someone) out "beat up" is from 1971.


"pointed tool for making holes or embossing," late 14c., short for puncheon (mid-14c.), from Old French ponchon, poinchon "pointed tool, piercing weapon," from Vulgar Latin *punctionem (nominative *punctio) "pointed tool," from past participle stem of Latin pungere "to prick" (see pungent). From mid-15c. as "a stab, thrust;" late 15c. as "a dagger." Meaning "machine for pressing or stamping a die" is from 1620s.


type of mixed drink, 1630s, traditionally since 17c. said to derive from Hindi panch "five," in reference to the number of original ingredients (spirits, water, lemon juice, sugar, spice), from Sanskrit panchan-s, from pancha "five" (see five). But there are difficulties (see OED), and connection to puncheon (n.1) is not impossible.



the puppet show star, 1709, shortening of Punchinello (1666), from Italian (Neapolitan) Pollecinella, Pollecenella, diminutive of pollecena "turkey pullet," probably in allusion to his big nose. The phrase pleased as punch apparently refers to his unfailing triumph over enemies. The comic weekly of this name was published in London from 1841.


"a quick blow with the fist," by 1570s, probably from punch (v.). In early use also of blows with the foot or jabs with a staff or club. Originally especially of blows that sink in to some degree ("... whom he unmercifully bruises and batters from head to foot: here a slap in the chaps, there a black eye, now a punch in the stomach, and then a kick on the breech," "Monthly Review," 1763). Figurative sense of "forceful, vigorous quality" is recorded from 1911. To beat (someone) to the punch in the figurative sense is from 1915, a metaphor from boxing (attested by 1913). Punch line (also punch-line) is from 1915 (originally in popular-song writing); punch-drunk is from 1915 (alternative form slug-nutty is from 1933).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with punch


In addition to the idioms beginning with punch

  • punch in
  • punch out

also see:

  • beat to it (the punch)
  • can't punch one's way out of a paper bag
  • pack a punch
  • pleased as punch
  • pull no punches
  • roll with the punches
  • sucker punch
  • throw a punch
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.