See more synonyms for tug on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object), tugged, tug·ging.
  1. to pull at with force, vigor, or effort.
  2. to move by pulling forcibly; drag; haul.
  3. to tow (a vessel) by means of a tugboat.
verb (used without object), tugged, tug·ging.
  1. to pull with force or effort: to tug at a stuck drawer.
  2. to strive hard; labor; toil.
  1. an act or instance of tugging; pull; haul.
  2. a strenuous contest between opposing forces, groups, or persons; struggle: the tug of young minds in a seminar.
  3. tugboat.
  4. that by which something is tugged, as a rope or chain.
  5. (on a harness)
    1. trace2(def 1).
    2. any of various supporting or pulling parts.

Origin of tug

1175–1225; Middle English toggen to play-wrestle, contend; akin to Old English togian to tow1
Related formstug·ger, nountug·less, adjectiveun·tugged, adjective

Synonyms for tug

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for tugged

draw, jerk, tow, traction, strain, drag, haul, wrench, lug, toil, heave, yank

Examples from the Web for tugged

Contemporary Examples of tugged

Historical Examples of tugged

  • He glowered at his fate, and tugged his tawny moustache for some time in silence.


    William J. Locke

  • Dick glowered sullenly at the wall and tugged his great moustache.


    William J. Locke

  • He tugged at his collar as if to breathe the easier, cleared his throat and began again.

    The Underdog

    F. Hopkinson Smith

  • Though each guest tugged with all his might, he tugged in vain.

  • Frantically he tugged and tore at the slimy rope, hauling with a will and a prayer.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

British Dictionary definitions for tugged


verb tugs, tugging or tugged
  1. (when intr, sometimes foll by at) to pull or drag with sharp or powerful movementsthe boy tugged at the door handle
  2. (tr) to tow (a vessel) by means of a tug
  3. (intr) to work; toil
  1. a strong pull or jerkhe gave the rope a tug
  2. Also called: tugboat, towboat a boat with a powerful engine, used for towing barges, ships, etc
  3. a hard struggle or fight
  4. a less common word for trace 2 (def. 1)
Derived Formstugger, noun

Word Origin for tug

C13: related to Old English tēon to tow 1
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 tugged



early 13c., from weak grade of Old English teohan "to pull, drag," from Proto-Germanic *teukh- "pull," from PIE *deuk- "to pull, to lead" (see duke (n.)). Related to tow (v.). Related: Tugged; tugging.



c.1500, from tug (v.). Meaning "small steamer used to tow other vessels" is recorded from 1817. Phrase tug of war (1670s) was originally figurative, "the decisive contest, the real struggle."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper