c. 1300 (mid-13c. in surnames), "to move or try to move forcibly by pulling, to drag forcibly or with effort," from Old English pullian "to pluck off (wool), to draw out," a word of unknown origin, perhaps related to Low German pulen "remove the shell or husk," Frisian pûlje "to shell, husk," Middle Dutch polen "to peel, strip," Icelandic pula "work hard." Related: Pulled; pulling.
From early 14c. as "to pick, pull off, gather by hand" (fruit, flowers, berries, leaves, petals, etc.); mid-14c. as "to extract, uproot" (of teeth, weeds, etc.).
Sense of "to draw (to oneself), attract" is from c. 1400; sense of "to pluck at with the fingers" is from c. 1400; meaning "tear to pieces" is mid-15c. By late 16c. it had replaced draw (v.) in these senses. From mid-14c. as "to deprive (someone of something)."
Common in slang terms 19c.-20c.; Bartlett (1859) has to pull foot "walk fast; run;" pull it "to run." To pull (someone's) chain in the figurative sense is from 1974, perhaps on the notion of a captive animal; the expression was also used for "to contact" (someone), on the notion of the chain that operates a signaling mechanism. To pull (someone's) leg is from 1882, perhaps on notion of "playfully tripping" (compare pull the long bow "exaggerate," 1830, and pulling someone's leg also sometimes was described as a way to awaken a sleeping person in a railway compartment, ship's berth, etc.). Thornton's "American Glossary" (1912) has pull (n.) "a jest" (to have a pull at (someone)), which it identifies as "local" and illustrates with an example from the Massachusetts Spy of May 21, 1817, which identifies it as "a Georgian phrase."
To pull (one's) punches is from 1920 in pugilism, from 1921 figuratively. To pull in "arrive" (1892) and pull out "depart" (1868) are from the railroads. To pull for someone or something, "exert influence or root for" is by 1903.
To pull (something) off "accomplish, succeed at" is originally in sporting, "to win the prize money" (1870). To pull (something) on (someone) is from 1916; to pull (something) out of one's ass is Army slang from 1970s. To pull rank is from 1919; to pull the rug from under (someone) figuratively is from 1946.
c. 1300, pul, "a fishing net;" mid-14c., "a turn at pulling," from pull (v.). From late 14c. as "an act of pulling." From mid-14c. as "a short space of time." By 1570s as "a drink, a swig of liquor."
Meaning "personal or private influence, advantageous claim to one who has influence" is by 1889, American English, from earlier sense "power to pull (and not be pulled by)" a rival or competitor (1580s).
Figurative expression pull the wool over (someone's) eyes is recorded from 1838, American English. To be literally dyed in the wool (1725, as opposed to dyed in the piece) is to be so before spinning, while the material is in its raw state, which has a more durable effect; hence the figurative sense "from the beginning; most thoroughly," attested from 1809, and especially, in U.S. politics, from 1830.
word-forming element meaning variously "above; highest; across; higher in power or authority; too much; above normal; outer; beyond in time, too long," from Old English ofer (from PIE root *uper "over"). Over and its Germanic relations were widely used as prefixes, and sometimes could be used with negative force. This is rare in Modern English, but compare Gothic ufarmunnon "to forget," ufar-swaran "to swear falsely;" Old English ofercræft "fraud."
In some of its uses, moreover, over is a movable element, which can be prefixed at will to almost any verb or adjective of suitable sense, as freely as an adjective can be placed before a substantive or an adverb before an adjective. [OED]
Among the old words not now existing are Old English oferlufu (Middle English oferlufe), literally "over-love," hence "excessive or immoderate love." Over- in Middle English also could carry a sense of "too little, below normal," as in over-lyght "of too little weight" (c. 1400), overlitel "too small" (mid-14c.), overshort, etc.
Old English ofer "beyond; above, in place or position higher than; upon; in; across, past; more than; on high," from Proto-Germanic *uberi (source also of Old Saxon obar, Old Frisian over, Old Norse yfir, Old High German ubar, German über, Gothic ufar "over, above"), from PIE root *uper "over."
As an adjective from Old English uffera. The senses of "past, done, finished; through the whole extent, from beginning to end" are attested from late 14c. The sense of "so as to cover the whole surface" is from c. 1400. Meaning "leaning forward and down" is from 1540s. The meaning "recovered from" is from 1929. In radio communication, it is used to indicate the speaker has finished speaking (1926).
Above expresses greater elevation, but not necessarily in or near a perpendicular direction; over expresses perpendicularity or something near it: thus, one cloud may be above another, without being over it. Over often implies motion or extension where above would not; hence the difference in sense of the flying of a bird over or above a house, the hanging of a branch over or above a wall. In such uses over seems to represent greater nearness. [Century Dictionary]
Phrase over and above (mid-15c.) is pleonastic, for emphasis. Adjective phrase over-the-counter is attested from 1875, originally of stocks and shares. To be (someone) all over "be exactly what one expects of (someone)" is by 1721.