General English


  • verb to pull another wheeled vehicle or implement


  • verb to pull an aircraft or vehicle using a bar, rope, etc. attached to another aircraft or vehicle

Cars & Driving

  • verb to pull a trailer or caravan behind a vehicle by means of a towing hitch
  • verb to pull a disabled vehicle behind another vehicle by means of a rope, cable or rigid bar


  • noun an act of pulling a vehicle behind another one using e.g. a rope
  • noun
    (written as TOW)
    an American-designed anti-tank missile.
  • verb to move a vehicle, aircraft or ship by pulling it
  • acronym fortube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided missile
    (written as TOW)

Origin & History of “tow”

English has two words tow. The older, ‘pull’ (OE), came from a prehistoric Germanic *togōjan (source also of Norwegian toga ‘pull’). this was derived from the base *tog-, variants of which gave English team, tug, etc, and it goes back ultimately to the same Indo-European base as produced Latin dūcere ‘pull, lead’ (source of English conduct, duke, etc). Tow ‘flax or hemp fibre’ (14th c.) was borrowed from middle Low German touw. This probably went back to the prehistoric Germanic base *tōw-, *taw- ‘make, prepare’ (source also of English tool), in the specialized sense ‘make yarn from wool, spin’.