hold back

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hold back (third-person singular simple present holds back, present participle holding back, simple past and past participle held back)

  1. (idiomatic, intransitive) To act with reserve; to contain one's full measure or power.
    Synonym: pull punches
    Coordinate terms: pull back, stand back
    Don't hold back. Hit it as hard as you can.
    • 2023 October 4, Mel Holley, “Network News: Conservative MPs criticise ticket office closure plans”, in RAIL, number 993, page 23:
      The TSSA union, which along with the RMT represents many of the staff affected by the closures, hasn't held back on its criticism.
  2. (idiomatic, transitive) To contain; stop.
    Coordinate terms: hold down, hold off, set back
    The dam can't hold back that much water.
  3. (idiomatic, transitive) To delay the progress of, especially in school.
    Coordinate term: set back
    He's a year older than his classmates, because he was held back in second grade.