"pull or draw forcibly," 1580s, hall, variant of Middle English halen "to drag, pull" (see hale (v.)). Spelling with -au- or -aw- is from early 17c. Related: Hauled; hauling. To haul off "pull back a little" before striking or otherwise acting is American English, 1802.
1660s, "act of pulling," from haul (v.). Meaning "something gained" is from 1776, a figurative use from the meaning "the quantity of fish taken in one haul of a net," or perhaps on the notion of "drawing" a profit. Meaning "distance over which something must be hauled" (usually with long or short) is attested from 1873 in railroad use, in reference to the relative length of transportation, which determined the rate paid for it (long hauls = lower rate per mile).
updated on August 19, 2016