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).
late 14c., metathesis of Old English þurh, from Proto-Germanic *thurx (source also of Old Saxon thuru, Old Frisian thruch, Middle Dutch dore, Dutch door, Old High German thuruh, German durch, Gothic þairh "through"), from PIE root *tere- (2) "to cross over, pass through, overcome." Not clearly differentiated from thorough until early Modern English. Spelling thro was common 15c.-18c. Reformed spelling thru (1839) is mainly American English.
1837, "act of bringing a horse or vehicle to a sudden stop," from the verbal phrase; see pull (v.) + up (adv.). To pull up is attested by early 14c. as "lift (someone or something)," late 14c. as "uproot." By 1887 as "a place for pulling up a vehicle." The noun, as a type of horizontal bar physical exercise involving pulling up the body by means of the arms, is attested by 1891.
The sense of "check a course of action" is from 1808, figurative of the lifting of the reins in horse-riding; pull (v.) in the sense of "check or hold back one's horse to keep it from winning" is by 1800.