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

Related Words for punching

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 punching

Contemporary Examples of punching

Historical Examples of punching

  • But life has a way of punching up even a stale young writer.

    The Harbor

    Ernest Poole

  • Soon you will be punching your own head and calling yourself a fool.

    Ireland as It Is

    Robert John Buckley (AKA R.J.B.)

  • I'm always ready to listen and if you want any punching done, just let me know.


    Josephine Lawrence

  • Intelligence was listening to his earphones and punching buttons.


    Carroll Mather Capps

  • "That's not half of it," said Mr. Bullfinch, punching another button.

    Jerry's Charge Account

    Hazel Hutchins Wilson

British Dictionary definitions for punching




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 punching

c.1400, "the cutting out of figures;" early 15c. as "a blow with the fist," verbal noun from punch (v.). Related: Punching-bag (1889, figurative sense by 1903; also punch-bag).



"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 punching


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.