\ˈtəg \
tugged; tugging

Definition of tug 

(Entry 1 of 3)

intransitive verb

1 : to pull hard

2 : to struggle in opposition : contend

3 : to exert oneself laboriously : labor

transitive verb

1 : to pull or strain hard at

2a : to move by pulling hard : haul

b : to carry with difficulty : lug

3 : to tow with a tugboat



Definition of tug (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : an act or instance of tugging : pull

b : a strong pulling force

2a : a straining effort

b : a struggle between two people or opposite forces

3 : tugboat

4a : trace entry 3 sense 1

b : a short leather strap or loop

c : a rope or chain used for pulling

Definition of Tug (Entry 3 of 3)

tugrik, tugriks

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from tug


tugger noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for tug

Synonyms: Verb

drag, draw, hale, haul, lug, pull, tow

Synonyms: Noun

draw, haul, jerk, pluck, pull, wrench, yank

Antonyms: Verb

drive, propel, push

Antonyms: Noun


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of tug in a Sentence


I felt someone tugging on my sleeve. She tugged the cord until the plug came out of the wall socket.


He felt a gentle tug on his sleeve. gave the man in front a tug on his shirtsleeve as a sign that he was supposed to step aside
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

After her surgery, a now-viral video of Ayla hearing for the first time and her parents reacting to her excitement started to circulate on social media and has tugged at heartstrings everywhere. Daniela Sternitzky-di Napoli, Houston Chronicle, "Video showing Texas parents witness their baby hear for the first time goes viral," 29 June 2018 Jordan’s performance features several raw moments that can be added to Marvel Studios’ list of scenes that tug at your heartstrings. cleveland.com, "'Black Panther' will be the first Marvel movie to make you cry," 15 Feb. 2018 Opera purists may squawk, but for me every voice does justice not only to Bizet’s melodic richness but also to the inescapable fatalism of the story, as the music tugs everyone into combustible convergence. Ben Brantley, New York Times, "Review: Bad Girl Makes Good in a Glorious ‘Carmen Jones’," 27 June 2018 In one of television's most surreal landscapes, Beetz exists at the collision of every culture and idea that Atlanta targets, tugged in endless directions as her baby's father, Earn, attempts to scheme his way to success. Joshua Rivera, GQ, "Atlanta's Zazie Beetz Has Earned Your Attention," 6 Apr. 2018 Finally, the scientists determined that this wobbling is due to a delicate, tugging ballet between Proxima Centauri and a planet that orbits the star every 11.2 days. William Herkewitz, Popular Mechanics, "Earth-Like Planet Found Orbiting the Nearest Star to the Sun," 24 Aug. 2016 Hackett, in turn, would hook her bra before putting it on and then tug it over her like a T-shirt — a highly unusual way to put on a bra. Allie Gross, Detroit Free Press, "Busted Bra Shop founder helps women find right fit in Detroit, Chicago," 26 June 2018 Gonzalez goes over to him and, well, tugs him slightly and leans into him. Matthew Futterman And Victor Mather, New York Times, "Brazil Gets Its First Win, a Triumph of Grit More Than Style," 23 June 2018 My history writing tugged me toward art over the years. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "Old In Art School," 20 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Consider the tug heading up to the Twin Cities with a dozen barges. Meg Jones, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The Mississippi River lock and dam system is critical to the economy. But it's falling apart fast.," 1 June 2018 The pull-and-tug in Florida's minority party was subtle Saturday as party leaders met in Hollywood for their annual leadership conference. David Smiley, miamiherald, "Florida Democrats look for depth and clarity in the blue wave," 30 June 2018 Now, according to Mosseri, the algorithm is starting to take into account more serious factors that correlate with a story’s quality, not just its emotional tug. Nicholas Thompson, WIRED, "Exclusive: Facebook Opens Up About False News," 23 May 2018 The tree dips into the water and the current tugs at its leaves. Heather Radke, Longreads, "A Beginner’s Guide to Fly Fishing With Your Father," 16 June 2018 The tug's captain, saying the migrants were rebelling, asked Italy's coast guard to take the migrants. Fox News, "The Latest: Italy demands Malta rescue 450 migrants at sea," 13 July 2018 Michelle Egan, an Alyeska spokeswoman, said the diver inspection found no evidence the tug grounded. Alex Demarban, Anchorage Daily News, "Coast Guard investigating after 2nd accident for new spill-response operator in Prince William Sound," 11 July 2018 Helen—her last name remains unknown—has been conspicuously absent from the #PlaneBae saga after its initial publication, seemingly resisting the Warholian tug of the American media. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, "#PlaneBae and the Slow Death of Whimsy," 6 July 2018 The tug was built and is operated by Serco, a private company, which also tows the country’s nuclear submarines out to sea from their base at Faslane. The Economist, "Britain’s outsourcing model, copied around the world, is in trouble," 28 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tug.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of tug


14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4a

History and Etymology for tug


Middle English tuggen; akin to Old English togian to pull — more at tow

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about tug

Dictionary Entries near tug


Tu Fu




tug chain


Statistics for tug

Last Updated

20 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tug

The first known use of tug was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for tug



English Language Learners Definition of tug

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to pull something with a quick, forceful movement



English Language Learners Definition of tug (Entry 2 of 2)

: an act of pulling on something : a quick pull

: a strong pulling force


\ˈtəg \
tugged; tugging

Kids Definition of tug

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to pull hard I tugged at the rope.

2 : to move by pulling hard : drag

3 : to tow with a tugboat



Kids Definition of tug (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : an act of pulling hard : a hard pull She gave him a tug.

2 : tugboat

3 : a strong pulling force the tug of gravity

4 : a struggle between two people or forces


Medical Definition of tug 

— see tracheal tug

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on tug

What made you want to look up tug? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a state of commotion or excitement

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Roman Mythology Quiz

  • the-triumph-of-venus-by-alessandro-magnasco
  • Boreal comes from the name of the ancient Greek god of which wind?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!