Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.


A show of excessive deference toward someone in a superior position. I hate being in meetings with the CEO because then I have to witness all of the managers' forelock-tugging.

tear/tug/pull at/on (one's)/the heartstrings

To elicit strong feelings of sympathy or fondness. I don't know why, but that piece of music always tears at my heartstrings. That documentary really pulls on the heartstrings—you'll want to adopt all of those kids after watching it.
See also: heartstring, on, pull, tear, tug

touch (one's) forelock

To show excessive deference toward someone in a superior position. An allusion to the former act of pulling one's frontmost hair in lieu of having a hat to tip. I hate being in meetings with the CEO because then I have to witness all of the regional managers touching their forelocks like fawning sycophants.
See also: forelock, touch

tug (one's) forelock

To show excessive deference toward someone in a superior position. An allusion to the former act of pulling one's frontmost hair in lieu of having a hat to tip. I hate being in meetings with the CEO because then I have to witness all of the regional managers tugging their forelocks like fawning sycophants.
See also: forelock, tug

tug of love

1. A dispute over custody of a child or children following the divorce or separation of two parents. An ironic play on the phrase "tug of war." Sometimes hyphenated. The divorce itself didn't bother me at all, but the tug of love over my three-year-old nearly destroyed my spirit.
2. By extension, a dispute or contest regarding the right of possession of someone or something. Sometimes hyphenated. Due to the company's international status, there is a bit of a tug-of-love at the moment between several countries over who can lay claim to its huge overdue tax bill.
See also: love, of, tug

tug of war

1. A game in which two or more people pull on either ends of a rope with the goal of causing its center point to cross over to their side. Our company has a massive annual tug of war match each year, sometimes with as many as 50 people pulling on each side!
2. Any instance in which two or more people or animals pull vigorously on either ends of something. It's always a tug of war between me and the dog for the newspaper each morning. The kids started off sharing the bicycle very nicely, but it devolved into a tug of war about 30 minutes later.
3. Any situation in which two or more people or groups engage in a struggle for control or supremacy. Control over Congress has been a tug of war over the last decade, with either party regaining and losing control in each subsequent election cycle. I don't want a game of tug of war between us for custody of the children, so let's please just share it equally.
See also: of, tug, war

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 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

tug your forelock

If someone tugs their forelock, they show a lot of respect to someone in a high social position. I don't know how you can stand bowing and scraping and tugging your forelock to all those rich old crones. Note: You can also say that someone touches their forelock. A lot of people seem to think we're supposed to go round touching our forelock and scraping our heads against the floor. We're not. Note: You can refer to this kind of behaviour as forelock-tugging or forelock-touching. The idea of forelock-tugging is totally alien to us, as is the idea that some people are born to rule. Note: These expressions are used to show that the speaker thinks that too much respect is being shown. Note: A forelock is a lock of hair that falls over a person's forehead. In the past, it was customary for lower class people to remove their hats in front of upper class people. If they were not wearing a hat, they touched their forelock instead.
See also: forelock, tug

tug at the heartstrings


tug at your heartstrings

COMMON If someone or something tugs at the heartstrings or tugs at your heartstrings, they cause you to feel pity or sadness. Miss Cookson knows exactly how to tug at readers' heartstrings. Note: You can use verbs such as pull and pluck instead of tug. Unlike many charity campaigns, it doesn't pull at the heartstrings. Note: You can also omit the word at. McLachlan tugs the heartstrings with a succession of ballads. Note: Heartstrings is used in many other structures and expressions with similar meanings. This is not a movie that aims for the heartstrings. Note: In medieval times, it was believed that `heartstrings' were tendons which supported the heart.
See also: heartstring, tug

tug of love

a dispute over the custody of a child. British informal
See also: love, of, tug

touch/tug your ˈforelock

(disapproving) show too much respect for a person of a higher rank or status: This is a democratic country and we don’t want people tugging their forelocks.In the past, people either took off their hats or pulled on their forelocks (= the hair above the forehead) to show respect.
See also: forelock, touch, tug

tug at somebody’s ˈheartstrings

make somebody feel strong emotions of sadness and pity: Advertisers often use babies and children to tug at your heartstrings.
See also: heartstring, tug
References in periodicals archive ?
These sources further said the KPT invited bids under Clause 36(b) of PPRA-2204 (amended) for the provision of two berthing tugs on hiring basis/chartering, therefore, PNSC fully met these conditions.
This order will bring the total number of Damen-built tugs operating in Kotug Smit's fleet of 69 to 22, said a statement from the company.
The TugMAXXE[R] and Flyer-Truck[R] electrical towbarless tug vehicles combine revolutionary technology, unrivalled flexibility, unique practicability, unparalleled quality, and convenience, making it the most ingenious aircraft tow system in the industry.
Recently, a major expansion of the port has been completed and the new tug will allow the port to handle even larger container vessels.
In 1934 his family entered the tug and barge business as Smith Lighterage Company.
Perhaps your dog is happy to tug on a metal chain, or the pain of the chain on your own hands is more than you're willing to bear.
The first two Stan Tug 1606 mooring boats, Ras Al Allaj Qatar and Al Esaiwed, were delivered in August 2014.
A MERSEYSIDE lifeboat was launched after a tug got into trouble in Liverpool bay.
NYSE: TXT) company E-Z-GO said it has acquired TUG Technologies Corp.
We hypothesized that, when compared with AGS criteria, TUG performance-based measures would better identify patients at risk for falls due to executive dysfunction.
Aircraft tug sales are up because pilots who used to be willing to shove their airplanes up uneven ramps into hangars have decided that doing so isn't as easy as it used to be.
Tug of War marks Toronto singer-songwriter Lesley Pike's second time out of the gate.
TUG of war teams are heading to Huddersfield tomorrow.
TUG the terrier gave his owner a fright after he was lost six feet down a rabbit warren for seven hours and had to be rescued by fire crews.