Definition of tug in English:

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Pronunciation: /tʌɡ/

verb (tugs, tugging, tugged)

[with object]
1Pull (something) hard or suddenly: she tugged off her boots [no object]: he tugged at Tom’s coat sleeve
More example sentences
  • It stuck like glue and no matter how hard he tugged it, it just wouldn't budge.
  • He murmured, gently tugging my arm and pulling me into his lap.
  • Slowly and steadily I reel it in, remembering Glyn's advice not to tug the hook too suddenly.
pull, pluck;
tweak, twitch, jerk, wrench, wrest;
grab, clutch, catch hold of
informal yank
drag, pull, draw, haul, heave, tow, trail
informal lug
1.1Tow (a ship) by means of a tugboat: the ships were tugged off the reefs
More example sentences
  • Recently, the ship was tugged back to the Steel yard and covered with a tarp for the winter where it will begin renovations.
  • He said the ship was being tugged to a shipwrecking yard when the tugboat's cables broke and high tides pushed the tanker to shallow water where it ran aground.


1A hard or sudden pull: another tug and it came loose figurative an overwhelming tug of attraction
More example sentences
  • I took the edge of the blanket and gave it a hard tug pulling the whole thing off the bed.
  • He began drawing a detailed picture of an angel when a sudden tug on his shoulders nearly made him fall off the bench.
  • About 5 minutes later I felt a hard tug, and started reeling in the fish.
pull, jerk, wrench, heave
informal yank
2 (also tugboat) A small, powerful boat used for towing larger boats and ships, especially in harbour.
Example sentences
  • The bridge swings open so massive cruise ships and small tugboats can enter the harbor.
  • Many parked their cars along River Road and either set up chairs or stood and watched as a tugboat nudged the ship into place.
  • ‘The nearest boat to the tugboat was 40 nautical miles away and we managed to be there in about two hours,’ he said.
2.1An aircraft towing a glider.
Example sentences
  • By 1960, only seven remained active as target tugs and radar calibration aircraft for the gunnery ranges ashore or the fleet guns.
  • There is an open question as to what the legal status of these operations would be after the exemption expires and our towing operations that use heavy tugs move to light-sport aircraft.
  • Portability as well as being able to be flown from hang gliding flight parks using hang glider tugs has been the criteria for design.
3A loop from a horse’s saddle which supports a shaft or trace.
Example sentences
  • Most folks hang their shafts too low and you need to restrain the tug so it doesn't fly forward and backward as the animal performs maneuvers.
  • The tug straps loop through the gullet of the saddle and then buckle back to the collar.


tug of love

Pronunciation: /ˌtʌɡ əv ˈlʌv/
British informal A dispute over the custody of a child: [as modifier]: tug-of-love battles between adoptive and real parents
More example sentences
  • A desperate mum is still caught up in a tug-of-love battle over her three children, despite winning custody of them a year ago.
  • A man whose granddaughter was taken away from his family in a tug-of-love court battle is writing a book about his ordeal.
  • It's deadlock, with only acrimonious court battles and a bitter tug-of-love to look forward to.



Example sentences
  • But then in 1904 we were in the main forelock tuggers.
  • They'll carry your bag, serve you well and even have time for intelligent conversation, but if you seek forelock tuggers, seek elsewhere.
  • Usually the darling of the heartstring tugger or a hard-headed military man, it's easy to forget that he can do anything else.


Middle English: from the base of tow1. The noun is first recorded (late Middle English) in sense 3 of the noun.

Words that rhyme with tug

bug, chug, Doug, drug, dug, fug, glug, hug, jug, lug, mug, plug, pug, rug, shrug, slug, smug, snug, thug, trug

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: tug

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