plural tugs-of-war
: a struggle for supremacy or control usually involving two antagonists
: a contest in which two teams pull against each other at opposite ends of a rope with the object of pulling the middle of the rope over a mark on the ground

Examples of tug-of-war in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The corporate world’s post-COVID era has been defined by a tug-of-war between staff and employers over returning to the office. Ryan Hogg, Fortune Europe, 21 Nov. 2023 The result is a kind of tug-of-war between two of the economy’s main pillars. Rachel Siegel, Washington Post, 18 Nov. 2023 Back on the ground, there was a tug-of-war between the Sussexes’ team and Buckingham Palace over whether to announce the news without Harry being informed. Michelle Tauber, Peoplemag, 15 Nov. 2023 Said drawers are designed to open and close smoothly, so don’t worry about playing tug-of-war. Megan Ulu-Lani Boyanton, Better Homes & Gardens, 14 Nov. 2023 Instead, their release became an emotional tug-of-war that has played out in the court system and in the grieving community. Ben Brasch, Washington Post, 9 Nov. 2023 That never-ending gravitational tug-of-war makes the rocky surface of Io move up and down by 100 meters, the same height as a 30-story building. Quanta Magazine, 2 Nov. 2023 The world that was in the palm of his hand was in a tug-of-war with the world on his shoulders. Thomas Lennon, Variety, 31 Oct. 2023 Workers and employers have been engaged in a tug-of-war over return-to-work mandates since the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Prarthana Prakash, Fortune, 23 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'tug-of-war.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1677, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of tug-of-war was in 1677

Dictionary Entries Near tug-of-war

Cite this Entry

“Tug-of-war.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


plural tugs-of-war
: a struggle to win
: a contest in which two teams pull against each other at opposite ends of a rope

More from Merriam-Webster on tug-of-war

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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