[ toh ]
/ toʊ /
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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.



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Idioms for tow

    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

First recorded before 1000; Middle English verb touen, towe, Old English togian “to pull by force, drag, pull”; cognate with Middle High German zogen, German ziehen “to draw, tug, drag”; the noun is derivative of the verb; see tug
tow·a·ble, adjectivetow·a·bil·i·ty, noun
toe, tow

Definition for tow (2 of 4)

[ toh ]
/ toʊ /


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


made of tow.

Origin of tow

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English tou, tow(e), tough “unworked flax,” Old English tōw- (in tōwlīc “pertaining to weaving,” tōwhūs “spinning house”); akin to Old Norse “wool”

Definition for tow (3 of 4)

[ toh ]
/ toʊ /

noun Scot.

a rope.

Origin of tow

First recorded in 1500–20; late Middle English (Scots); Old English toh- (in tohlīne “towline”); cognate with Old Norse tog “rope, line, towline”; see origin at tow1

Definition for tow (4 of 4)

[ toh ]
/ toʊ /

noun Military.

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

First recorded in 1970–75; abbreviation of t(ube-launched), o(ptically-guided), w(ire-tracked missile)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

British Dictionary definitions for tow (1 of 2)

/ (təʊ) /


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


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

British Dictionary definitions for tow (2 of 2)

/ (təʊ) /


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

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.
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