pull punches

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Alternative forms[edit]


From boxing, 1920s.[1]


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pull punches

  1. (originally boxing) To avoid using a high level of force when punching.
    • 2017, Mark D Bishop, Zen Odyssey, An Okinawan Karate & Martial Arts Journey, Lulu.com (→ISBN), page 228:
      Traditionally on Okinawa (if 'traditionally' is the right word to use), protectors had been worn during sparring practise because the trainees believed that, to be effective, one should not train to pull punches.
  2. (figurative, often in the negative) To act with reserve; especially, to word something delicately to avoid giving offense or inciting anger.
    Synonym: hold back
    I did not pull any punches when I told them my thoughts.
    • 2005, Nick Morgan, Give Your Speech, Change the World: How To Move Your Audience to Action, Harvard Business Review Press (→ISBN), page 78:
      The key here is not to pull punches. Tell it to 'em straight. Don't point fingers. But don't avoid painful truths.
    • 2010, Kenneth J. Heineman, Catholic New Deal: Religion and Reform in Depression Pittsburgh, Penn State Press (→ISBN), page 75:
      Father Charles Owen Rice was not one to pull punches, particularly when it came to confronting what he viewed as hypocritical behavior among Catholics.


See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ pull” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2020.