verb (used with object)

to pull or haul (a car, barge, trailer, etc.) by a rope, chain, or other device: The car was towed to the service station.


an act or instance of towing.
something being towed.
something, as a boat or truck, that tows.
a rope, chain, metal bar, or other device for towing: The trailer is secured to the car by a metal tow.

Nearby words

  1. tovarisch,
  2. tovarishch,
  3. tovell tube,
  4. tovey,
  5. tovey, sir donald francis,
  6. tow bar,
  7. tow car,
  8. tow truck,
  9. tow-coloured,
  10. tow-haired


    in tow,
    1. in the state of being towed.
    2. under one's guidance; in one's charge.
    3. as a follower, admirer, or companion: a professor who always had a graduate student in tow.
    under tow, in the condition of being towed; in tow.

Origin of tow

before 1000; Middle English towen (v.), Old English togian to pull by force, drag; cognate with Middle High German zogen to draw, tug, drag. See tug

Related formstow·a·ble, adjectivetow·a·bil·i·ty, noun

Can be confusedtoe tow




the fiber of flax, hemp, or jute prepared for spinning by scutching.
the shorter, less desirable flax fibers separated from line fibers in hackling.
synthetic filaments prior to spinning.


made of tow.

Origin of tow

1300–50; Middle English; Old English tōw- (in tōwlīc pertaining to thread, tōwhūs spinning house); akin to Old Norse wool



noun Scot.

a rope.

Origin of tow

1425–75; late Middle English (Scots); Old English toh- (in tohlīne towline); cognate with Old Norse tog towline. See tow1




a U.S. Army antitank missile, steered to its target by two thin wires connected to a computerized launcher, which is mounted on a vehicle or helicopter.

Origin of TOW

t(ube-launched,) o(ptically-guided,) w(ire-tracked missile) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tow

British Dictionary definitions for tow




(tr) to pull or drag (a vehicle, boat, etc), esp by means of a rope or cable


the act or an instance of towing
the state of being towed (esp in the phrases in tow, under tow, on tow)
something towed
something used for towing
in tow in one's charge or under one's influence
informal (in motor racing, etc) the act of taking advantage of the slipstream of another car (esp in the phrase get a tow)
short for ski tow
Derived Formstowable, adjective

Word Origin for tow

Old English togian; related to Old Frisian togia, Old Norse toga, Old High German zogōn


the fibres of hemp, flax, jute, etc, in the scutched state
synthetic fibres preparatory to spinning
the coarser fibres discarded after combing
Derived Formstowy, adjective

Word Origin for tow

Old English tōw; related to Old Saxon tou, Old Norse tuft of wool, Dutch touwen to spin

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 tow
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with tow


see in tow.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.