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take (something) in tow

To pull or drag something. Originally a nautical phrase used to describe the action of a ship towing something. They'll take the plane in tow and bring it back to the hangar.
See also: take, tow

take (one) in tow

To help or guide another person by acting as a mentor. My high school English teacher was a great mentor—she took me in tow and taught me invaluable skills, like how to read and write critically.
See also: take, tow


1. A strong undercurrent, as in the ocean. There's a really powerful undertow today, so I think the kids should stay out of the water.
2. A contrasting tone or aspect in art or literature. That movie is advertised as a comedy, but the humor has a strong undertow of sadness and despair.

have someone or something in tow

Fig. to lead, pull, or tow someone or something around. Mrs. Smith has her son by the hand and in tow. That car has a boat in tow.
See also: have, tow

in tow

closely following; under someone's control. The nanny walked into the park with three children in tow. The manager went to the meeting with her staff in tow.
See also: tow

tow someone or something away*

to pull something, such as a car or a boat, away with another car, boat, etc. (The someone refers to the property of someone, not the person.) If I don't get back to my car, they will tow me away. The truck towed away my car. A big truck came and towed the illegally parked car away.
See also: away, tow

tow someone or something into something

 and tow someone or something in
to pull something, such as a car or a truck, into something, such as a garage. (The someone refers to the property of someone, not the person.) They had to tow my car into the garage to be repaired. They towed in my car.
See also: tow

tow someone or something out

(of some place) to pull something, such as a car, out of something, such as a ditch. (The someone refers to the property of someone, not the person.) The farmer used his tractor to tow Andrew out of the ditch. He towed the car out of the ditch.
See also: out, tow

tow someone or something out (to something)

to pull something, such as a boat, or someone in or on something out in the water, to something. (The someone refers to the property of someone, not the person.) Frank, who was on his surfboard, asked Tony to tow him out to the little island. We towed the raft out where the water is deep.
See also: out, tow

toe the line

to do what you are ordered or expected to do Not everyone was happy with the plan, but most of us toed the line.
Usage notes: sometimes used with a noun describing whose orders are being followed: They promised to toe the party line and vote with the leadership.
See also: line, toe

in tow

following or going along under someone's control She usually goes shopping with her three children in tow.
Etymology: based on the literal meaning of a vehicle or ship in tow (being pulled with a rope or chain)
See also: tow

toe/tow the line

to do what you are ordered or expected to do He might not like the rules but he'll toe the line just to avoid trouble. Ministers who refused to toe the Party line were swiftly got rid of.
See take the line of least resistance, cross the line, draw a line under, draw the line, draw the line at, drop a line, fall in line, feed a line, lay it on the line, step out of line
See also: line, toe

in tow

if you have someone in tow, you have them with you She arrived with six small children in tow.
See toe the line
See also: tow

in tow

In one's charge or close guidance; along with one. For example, The older girl took the new student in tow, or Peter always had his family in tow. This expression alludes to the literal meaning of being pulled along. [Early 1700s]
See also: tow

toe the line

Also, toe the mark. Meet a standard, abide by the rules, as in The new director will make us toe the line, I'm sure, or At daycare Brian has to toe the mark, but at home his mother's quite lenient. This idiom refers to runners in a race placing their toes on the starting line and not moving until the starting signal. Its figurative use dates from the early 1800s.
See also: line, toe

in tow

1. In a condition of being towed: a car with a trailer in tow.
2. Under close guidance; in one's charge: The new student was taken in tow by a peer counselor.
3. As a companion or follower: came to dinner with a friend in tow.
See also: tow
References in periodicals archive ?
About TOW The tube-launched, optically-tracked, wireless-guided (TOW) weapon system, with the multimission TOW 2A, TOW 2B Aero and TOW Bunker Buster missiles, is the premier long-range, precision, anti-armor, anti-fortification weapon system used throughout the world today.
Then there are the companies that drive around looking for parking violators so they can tow the cars away.
The weight of a disabled vehicle can push or pull the tow vehicle, causing loss of control.
The tow driver allegedly jumped into his truck and drove it at the man and his friend, forcing them to dive out of the way, police said.
Judges of the Tow Car Awards include the editor of Practical Caravan magazine, the tow car editor of Practical Caravan, the deputy road test editor of What Car?
The Moelfre RNLI lifeboat transferred the tow to the Holyhead RNLI lifeboat who continued the tow to Holyhead.
If you really don't want to - or need a tow bar -then our advice is to make sure you don't overpay, buy low mileage and make a judgment about whether the towing has been light or heavy.
If you really don't want to - or need a tow bar - then our advice is to make sure you don't overpay.
After forking over $280 to get the car out of impound, he discovered the Accord had extensive steering and front-end damage caused by the tow.
Ovanes Pogosyan, 23, of Glendale was booked on suspicion of illegally soliciting tow service and unauthorized towing, Officer John Lutz said.
If you're thinking of buying a caravan, a new towcar or are just a little nervous about towing, book your sessions at the National Caravan Council stand, number 4421, during the show and discover how easy it really is to tow a caravan.
If a vehicle is disabled due to an accident or mechanical malfunction and a tow truck removes the vehicle upon the owner or operator's consent, or in some circumstances, upon the law enforcement officer's direction, these tows are considered consensual.
On the low-end of the range, the V8-powered truck increases its tow rating by 3,000 lb.
The Montsamaisa Bosigo is a foldaway telescopic tow bar that can be easily stored in the boot of a car.