Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To draw or pull behind by a chain or line: a tugboat towing a barge. See Synonyms at pull.
  • n. The act or an instance of towing.
  • n. The condition of being towed: a car with a trailer in tow.
  • n. Something, such as a tugboat, that tows.
  • n. Something, such as a barge or car, that is towed.
  • n. A rope or cable used in towing.
  • idiom in tow Under close guidance; in one's charge: The new student was taken in tow by a peer counselor.
  • idiom in tow As a companion or follower: came to dinner with a friend in tow.
  • n. Coarse broken flax or hemp fiber prepared for spinning. See Regional Note at gunnysack.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To pull something behind one using a line or chain; to haul.
  • n. The act of towing and the condition of being towed.
  • n. Something, such as a tugboat, that tows.
  • n. Something, such as a barge, that is towed.
  • n. A rope or cable used in towing.
  • n. An untwisted bundle of fibers such as cellulose acetate, flax, hemp or jute.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The coarse and broken part of flax or hemp, separated from the finer part by the hatchel or swingle.
  • n. A rope by which anything is towed; a towline, or towrope.
  • n. The act of towing, or the state of being towed; -- chiefly used in the phrase, to take in tow, that is to tow.
  • n. That which is towed, or drawn by a towline, as a barge, raft, collection of boats, ect.
  • transitive v. To draw or pull through the water, as a vessel of any kind, by means of a rope.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To make fluffy by picking to pieces, as hair.
  • To pull; draw; haul; especially, to drag through the water by means of a rope or chain: as, to tow a small boat astern; to tow a vessel into harbor.
  • To dredge with a towing-net. See towing, n., 2.
  • An obsolete or dialectal form of tough.
  • n. The act of towing, or the state of being towed: generally with in: as, to take a disabled vessel in tow.
  • n. A vessel or number of vessels that are being towed.
  • n. A rope.
  • n. The coarse and broken part of flax or hemp separated from the finer part by the hatchel or swingle.
  • n. In hecking, a quantity of hemp fibers sufficient for spinning a yarn 160 fathoms long. These fibers are passed twice through the heckle, and are then tied up into a bundle, which weighs about 3½ pounds.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the act of hauling something (as a vehicle) by means of a hitch or rope
  • v. drag behind

Etymologies

Middle English towen, from Old English togian; see deuk- in Indo-European roots.
Middle English, possibly from Old English tow-, spinning (in tow-cræft, spinning craft, spinning).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Old English toġian, from Proto-Germanic *tugōnan (German ziohan), from Proto-Indo-European *dewk-. (Wiktionary)
Origin uncertain; compare Old Norse  ("uncleansed wool"), Old English tow- ("spinning") (in compounds, e.g. towcræft, towhūs), perhaps cognate with Gothic 𐍄𐌰𐌿𐌾𐌰𐌽 (taujan, "do, make"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

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Comments

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  • tow away zone

    May 27, 2009

  • ...such a conversation passed between the trio as put fire and tow to the combustible heart of Don Lewis.

    - Lesage, The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane, tr. Smollett, bk 4 ch. 6

    September 18, 2008

  • (n) Coarse broken flax or hemp fiber prepared for spinning.
    Hence tow rag

    June 22, 2008