tug of war

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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 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