an athletic contest between two teams at opposite ends of a rope, each team trying to drag the other over a line.
a hard-fought, critical struggle for supremacy.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use tug of war in a sentence
Throughout the day, you would overhear chit-chat about the ongoing tug-of-war between libertarians and social conservatives.
At one point, they held a noisy tug-of-war with a giant rope in the middle of the exhibit hall.
Many states are caught up in a tug-of-war between the will of law enforcement and concerned citizens and legislators.On the Home Front, Drones Are Quickly Shot Down by States | Miranda Green | March 9, 2013 | THE DAILY BEAST
Now, after a cultural tug-of-war and a lengthy trial in Rome, Aphrodite is finally going home to Sicily.
It was after one of his nights with Rachel that the tug-of-war over Josh turned deadly.
For a couple of seconds there was a tug-of-war—pull boy, pull pig, and then the hat tore apart.The Red Cow and Her Friends | Peter McArthur
It was the tug-of-war being played with a life as the stakes.Auld Licht Idylls | J. M. Barrie
It is a tug-of-war, your skill and strength against the muscles of the animal inside the tight shells.On the Seashore | R. Cadwallader Smith
A nervous tug-of-war was taking place between her right and left hand, with a twisted-up pair of ecru gloves for the cable.The Shadow | Arthur Stringer
He remembered his watch, his money, and clothes, never recovered after that memorable tug-of-war.The Young Pitcher | Zane Grey
British Dictionary definitions for tug-of-war
a contest in which two people or teams pull opposite ends of a rope in an attempt to drag the opposition over a central line
any hard struggle, esp between two equally matched factions
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
Other Idioms and Phrases with tug of war
A struggle for supremacy, as in There's a constant political tug of war between those who favor giving more power to the states and those who want a strong federal government. Although there is an athletic contest also so named, in which participants holding either end of a rope try to pull each other across a dividing line, the present usage, first recorded in 1677, predates it by about two centuries. The noun tug itself means “a strenuous contest between two sides,” and war refers to fighting, either physical or figurative.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.