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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.

in tow

Accompanying alongside or under one's supervision. I was so embarrassed when I arrived with the kids in tow only realize that the invitation said adults only. The senator arrived to the press conference with her aides in tow.
See also: tow

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

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

in ˈtow

(informal) following closely behind; with you: Mrs Bridge arrived with her four children in tow.
See also: tow

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 ?
Property owners are supposed to wait an hour before having a vehicle towed, but bandit operators can remove a car in as few as five or 10 minutes.
Once that form is signed and the vehicle is towed, getting it back is expensive.
Section D is for the rare occasions, when the City of Meriden will require a city vehicle to be towed out-of-town, or picked up from out-of-town/state and towed back to Meriden.
If a tow bar is unavailable, connect cables, chains or ropes to the pintle of the prime mover and to the lifting shackles of the towed vehicle.
The car's owner confronted the tow driver, saying he believed the vehicle shouldn't be towed.
The 120-tonne fishing vessel was being towed by another boat but which was struggling under the strain.
New procedures had been hammered out to provide a better way of distributing police calls for towing service within the county, and to give public transparency to the way towed and impounded vehicles were managed.
Of these, PCI estimates that nearly 11 million of those vehicles will be towed from the accident scene.
In Eugene, the tow industry does big business - last year, 1,880 cars were towed within city limits, police records show.
The driver towed the car off the freeway and was arrested.
Outside the judge's chambers were several helpless and hapless consumers whose vehicles were involuntarily towed and only retrievable once the consumer paid towing and storage fees in excess and in addition to those fees authorized under Broward County's Code of Ordinances.
is being awarded a $10,580,805 cost-plus-fixed-fee modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-99-C-6212) to exercise an option for additional engineering and technical services and support to the Omnibus Towed Systems Program for TB-29A/BQ towed array development which includes the manufacture of prototypes, upgrades and retrofit kits for Navy towed systems.
50 caliber, 20 mm, 40 mm, three-inch and five-inch gun ammunition at targets towed by VU planes.
After a nationwide procurement search and selection process, Kansas City selected AutoReturn, the nation's leading municipal towing management and logistics company, to oversee the city's towing operations and handle, track, and report on towed vehicles.
Once the vehicle has been towed, the tow fee is paid directly to the Tire & Service Network dealer, so there is no need to arrange payment with a tow truck driver.