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tug at someone or something

to pull at someone or something. Stop tugging at me! I'll talk to you in a minute. The dog tugged at my pants cuff.
See also: tug

tug away (at something)

to pull hard at something; to haul something. She tugged away at the rope, but the anchor would not budge. No matter how much she tugged away, it didn't move.
See also: away, tug

tug at your heartstrings

also pull on your heartstrings
to cause strong feelings of affection or sympathy He looked into his son's smiling eyes and felt a tug on his heartstrings.
Usage notes: sometimes used with other verbs: The stories he told plucked at your heartstrings.
See also: heartstring, tug


showing too much respect towards someone who is in a high position As the General marched in, the collective forelock-tugging began.

tear/tug at your heartstrings

  also tear/tug at the heartstrings
if something or someone tugs at your heartstrings, they make you feel strong love or sympathy It's the story of a lost child - guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings.
See also: heartstring, tear

tug of war

A struggle for supremacy, as in There's a constant political tug of war between those who favor giving more power to the states and those who want a strong federal government . Although there is an athletic contest also so named, in which participants holding either end of a rope try to pull each other across a dividing line, the present usage, first recorded in 1677, predates it by about two centuries. The noun tug itself means "a strenuous contest between two sides," and war refers to fighting, either physical or figurative.
See also: of, tug, war
References in periodicals archive ?
While these are the first tugs to be built in the USA under Damens Technical Cooperation programme, over 200 Damen vessels have been built under licence in the USA since the mid-1990s.
Our passion and dedication to manufacture top quality aircraft tugs is already well known in many parts of the world," said Werner Zaglauer, Flyer-Truck[R] owner and Chief Executive Officer.
These tugs were specifically designed and built for Cook Inlet mobility in heavy sea ice conditions.
NSW currently operates over 30 vessels and performs 12,500 tug jobs per year.
As these vessels cannot move themselves inside the port basin - because they are too large - the pull tugs push and pull the vessel onto the berth.
The tug has 34 meter overall length with displacement of 481 tons.
Ports use conventional and new tugs equipped with 'Azipod systems' for increasing the maneuverability of ships entering the port and for ships conducting mooring and unmooring operations.
Tug boats from near and far afield made the rare sight as they manoeuvred their way along the canal arm, as part of the biggest event of its kind in the country.
Following retirement from port duties in 1989, the old Liverpool tug Brocklebank now boasts a very special accolade.
The two tugs are scheduled to arrive in early May," he added.
The twin-funnelled tugs, John Bull and Robert Burns, were owned by John Watkins Jnr and were active on the Mersey in the 1850s.
Andy Marchant, Fowler Welch Coolchain Fleet operations manager, said: "It is punishing work as the tugs never stop working, so operating 24/7 in this environment needs a tough long-lasting tyre that also delivers economical operating costs.
He says, however, that he's skeptical that evolution led the bacterium to tug on cell membranes in just the right way to lengthen the cells' survival.
Before we developed our newest product, the Series 2000, we carried out a survey among both the people who use and the people who maintain tugs.
Technologies utilized by TUGs include laser rangefinders, ultrasonic and infrared sensors, and three-dimensional maps.