v. pulled, pull·ing, pulls
1. To apply force to (something) so as to cause or tend to cause motion toward the source of the force: pulled her chair up to the table; pulled the wagon down the street.
2. To remove from a fixed position; extract: The dentist pulled the tooth.
3. To tug at; jerk or tweak: I pulled the lever until it broke.
4. To rip or tear; rend: The dog pulled the toy to pieces.
5. To stretch (taffy, for example) repeatedly.
6. To strain (a muscle, for example) injuriously.
7. Informal To attract; draw: a performer who pulls large crowds.
8. Slang To draw out (a weapon) in readiness for use: pull a gun; pulled a knife on me.
9. Informal To remove: pulled the car's engine; pulled the tainted meat product from the stores.
10. Sports To hit (a ball) so that it moves in the direction away from the dominant hand of the player propelling it, as to the left of a right-handed player.
a. To operate (an oar) in rowing.
b. To transport or propel by rowing.
c. To be rowed by: That boat pulls six oars.
12. To rein in (a horse) to keep it from winning a race.
13. Printing To produce (a print or an impression) from type.
1. To exert force in moving something toward the source of the force: Pull harder and the window will open.
a. To move in a certain direction or toward a certain goal: pulled into the driveway; pulled even with the race leader.
b. To gain a position closer to an objective: Our team has pulled within three points of the league leader.
3. To drink or inhale deeply: pulled on the cold beer with gusto; pull on a cigarette.
4. Nautical To row a boat.
5. Informal To express or feel great sympathy or empathy: We're pulling for our new president.
1. The act or process of pulling: gave the drawer a pull.
2. Force exerted in pulling or required to overcome resistance in pulling: How much pull does this tugboat have?
3. A sustained effort: a long pull across the mountains.
4. Something, such as a knob on a drawer, that is used for pulling.
5. A deep inhalation or draft, as on a cigarette or of a beverage.
6. Slang A means of gaining special advantage; influence: The lobbyist has pull with the senator.
7. Informal The ability to draw or attract; appeal: a star with pull at the box office.
To move ahead, as in a race.
1. To move away or backward; withdraw: The limousine pulled away from the curb.
2. To move ahead of another or others: The horse pulled away and took the lead in the race.
1. To withdraw or retreat.
2. To reduce one's involvement in a given enterprise.
1. To demolish; destroy: pull down an old office building.
2. To reduce to a lower level: The bad news pulled down stock prices.
3. To depress, as in spirits or health.
4. Informal To draw (money) as wages: pulls down a hefty salary.
1. To arrive at a destination: We pulled in at midnight.
2. To obtain, earn, or secure: How much money does he pull in? She pulled in half of the opponent's supporters.
3. To rein in; restrain: pulled in the investigators.
4. To arrest (a criminal suspect, for example).
pull off Informal
To accomplish in spite of difficulties or obstacles; bring off: pulled off a last-minute victory.
1. To leave or depart: The train pulls out at noon.
2. To withdraw, as from a situation or commitment: After the crash, many Wall Street investors pulled out.
1. To bring a vehicle to a stop at a curb or at the side of a road: We pulled over to watch the sunset.
2. To force (a motorist or a vehicle) to stop at a curb or at the side of a road: The state trooper pulled the speeding motorist over.
To restore or be restored to sound health.
To come or bring successfully through trouble or illness.
1. To bring or come to a halt: The driver pulled the car up at the curb. The car pulled up in front of the hotel.
2. To approach and arrive at a destination: We watched the plane pull up to the gate.
3. To increase or cause to increase in altitude: The plane pulled up just enough to miss the tower.
4. To advance or regain position, as in a race.
5. To check the action of: The remark pulled him up short.
6. To reprove or rebuke: They were pulled up for wasting money.
7. Basketball To stop one's progress and bring the ball up above one's head in order to take a jump shot.
pull a fast one Informal
To play a trick or perpetrate a fraud.
pull (oneself) together
To regain one's composure.
pull (one's) punches
To refrain from deploying all the resources or force at one's disposal: didn't pull any punches during the negotiations.
pull (one's) weight
To do one's own share, as of work.
pull out all the stops Informal
To deploy all the resources or force at one's disposal: The Inaugural Committee pulled out all the stops when arranging the ceremonies.
pull (someone's) leg
To play a joke on; tease or deceive.
To carry out a deception or swindle: worried that his partners might be trying to pull something behind his back.
To exert secret control or influence in order to gain an end.
pull the plug on Slang
To stop supporting or bring to an end: pulled the plug on the new art courses.
pull the rug (out) from under Informal
To remove all support and assistance from, usually suddenly.
pull the string
Baseball To throw an off-speed pitch.
pull the wool over (someone's) eyes
To deceive; hoodwink.
To make a joint effort.
pull up stakes
To clear out; leave: She pulled up stakes in New England and moved to the desert.
[Middle English pullen, from Old English pullian.]
Synonyms: pull, drag, draw, haul, tow1, tug
These verbs mean to cause something to move toward the source of an applied force. Pull is the most general: They pulled the sleds up a hill.
Drag stresses the effort involved in pulling, and also often that the object being moved is trailing along a surface: "His hands were dirty too, and they streaked his face as he dragged his fingers against his cheeks" (Paul Theroux).
Draw can be used to imply movement in a given direction: The teacher drew the children into the room to see the decorations.
Draw can also be used to indicate pulling so as to cover or uncover another object: She draws the curtains so we can see the sunlight.
To haul is to pull an object that is heavy, cumbersome, or otherwise difficult to move: "All three of us roll the drum to the driveway, flattening a strip of knee-high grass, acting like we haul mystery drums every day" (Mark Wisniewski).
Tow means to pull by means of a chain or line: Some cars can tow trailers.
Tug emphasizes repeated and sometimes vigorous pulling: "A strong-willed baby, wide awake and not to be ignored, already reaching out filament fingers to tug at her" (Tana French).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.