Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
tow someone or something into somethingand 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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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
if you have someone in tow, you have them with you She arrived with six small children in tow.See toe the line
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]
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.
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.