pull (v.)

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.

pull (n.)

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).

updated on January 29, 2021

Definitions of pull from WordNet
pull (v.)
cause to move by pulling;
pull a sled
Synonyms: draw
pull (v.)
direct toward itself or oneself by means of some psychological power or physical attributes;
This pianist pulls huge crowds
The ad pulled in many potential customers
Synonyms: attract / pull in / draw / draw in
pull (v.)
move into a certain direction;
the car pulls to the right
pull (v.)
apply force so as to cause motion towards the source of the motion;
pull your knees towards your chin
pull the trigger of the gun
pull the string gently
pull (v.)
perform an act, usually with a negative connotation;
pull a bank robbery
Synonyms: perpetrate / commit
pull (v.)
bring, take, or pull out of a container or from under a cover;
pull out a gun
The mugger pulled a knife on his victim
Synonyms: draw / pull out / get out / take out
pull (v.)
steer into a certain direction;
pull one's horse to a stand
pull (v.)
strain abnormally;
I pulled a muscle in my leg when I jumped up
The athlete pulled a tendon in the competition
Synonyms: overstretch
pull (v.)
cause to move in a certain direction by exerting a force upon, either physically or in an abstract sense;
A declining dollar pulled down the export figures for the last quarter
Synonyms: draw
pull (v.)
operate when rowing a boat;
pull the oars
pull (v.)
rein in to keep from winning a race;
pull a horse
pull (v.)
tear or be torn violently;
pull the cooked chicken into strips
Synonyms: rend / rip / rive
pull (v.)
hit in the direction that the player is facing when carrying through the swing;
pull the ball
pull (v.)
strip of feathers;
pull a chicken
Synonyms: pluck / tear / deplume / deplumate / displume
pull (v.)
remove, usually with some force or effort; also used in an abstract sense;
pull weeds
Synonyms: extract / pull out / pull up / take out / draw out / rip out / tear out
pull (v.)
take sides with; align oneself with; show strong sympathy for;
I'm pulling for the underdog
Synonyms: root for
pull (v.)
take away;
pull the old soup cans from the supermarket shelf
pull (n.)
the act of pulling; applying force to move something toward or with you;
his strenuous pulling strained his back
the pull up the hill had him breathing harder
Synonyms: pulling
pull (n.)
the force used in pulling;
the pull of the current
the pull of the moon
pull (n.)
special advantage or influence;
the chairman's nephew has a lot of pull
Synonyms: clout
pull (n.)
a device used for pulling something;
he grabbed the pull and opened the drawer
pull (n.)
a sharp strain on muscles or ligaments;
he was sidelined with a hamstring pull
Synonyms: wrench / twist
pull (n.)
a slow inhalation (as of tobacco smoke);
Synonyms: puff / drag
pull (n.)
a sustained effort;
it was a long pull but we made it
Etymologies are not definitions. From, not affiliated with etymonline.