Green’s Dictionary of Slang

pull n.

1. as a power over someone/something.

(a) influence, advantage.

Medwall Interlude of Nature sig. C. ii: It cost me a noble... The scald capper sware, That yt cost hym euen as myche But there Pryde had a pull [F&H].
[UK]J. Burgoyne Lord of Manor III i: You’ll have quite the pull of me in employment.
[UK]H.T. Potter New Dict. Cant (1795) n.p.: pull having the advantage over another.
[UK] ‘Drunk in the Night’ No. 26 Papers of Francis Place (1819) n.p.: It was my intention, to have a pull on them without more delay / So without further trouble I tip’d them the double.
[Aus]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 259: pull An important advantage possessed by one party over another; as in gaming, you may by some slight, unknown to your adversary, or by a knowledge of the cards, &c., have the odds of winning considerably on your side; you are then said to have a great pull. To have the power of injuring a person, by the knowledge of any thing erroneous in his conduct, which leaves his character or personal safety at your mercy, is also termed having a pull upon him, that is (to use a vulgar phrase) that you have him under your thumb.
[UK]Egan Life in London (1869) 227: [The Watchmen] besides having the pull in their favour, in opening the charge, and colouring it as they think proper .
[UK]‘A Flat Enlightened’ Life in the West I 152: [of card-playing] ‘The fairest game played, on which there can be no pull, is this’ [etc].
[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict.
[UK]‘F.L.G’ Swell’s Night Guide K4: Pull, having an advantage.
[US]Whip & Satirist of NY & Brooklyn (NY) 14 May n.p.: Main science being the only pull at the game [i.e. billiards].
[UK]T. Hughes Tom Brown’s School-Days (1896) 118: What a pull [...] that’s it’s lie-in-bed.
[US]M.L. Byrn Adventures of Fudge Fumble 135: You’ll never get a pull on me like some of the rest of the fair ones have done.
[UK] ‘’Arry on Crutches’ in Punch 3 May 201/1: That’s where I’ve the pull [...] I’ve the tastes of a Toff of the day.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 28 Feb. 18/3: A girl, then, with her hair tastefully and becomingly dressed, joined to a pretty neck and soldiers, and plump white arms, has quite the pull over the girl with a beautiful face, and nothing else to balance it.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 8 Dec. 3/1: What ‘pull’ has Miss Bridget Cavanagh [...] upon the Messrs Mallory?
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘The Bush Undertaker’ in Roderick (1972) 56: That’s where yer get the pull on me.
[US]E. Townsend Chimmie Fadden Explains 36: I squared it wid de Senator’s pull.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 5 Dec. 4/2: The higher Courts, where the powerful ‘police-pull’ loses its justice-diverting power.
[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 27: Well, yuh gotta have pull tuh do it.
[US]H. Hapgood Types From City Streets 59: Once he was able, through his ‘pull,’ to get an indictment for homicide dismissed.
[UK]‘Bartimeus’ Long Trick 51: ‘That’s where the Hun has the pull over us’.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 110: Never mind. Be sorry after perhaps when it dawns on him. Get the pull over him that way.
[US]J. Spenser Limey 5: I was consorting with criminals, but mostly cheap ones – the bums of the underworld who had no ‘pull’.
[US]N. Davis ‘Don’t Give Your Right Name’ in Goulart (1967) 35: So you got a pull with the cops, have you?
[US]J. Jones From Here to Eternity (1998) 298: I got pull with the Colonel [...] but I aint got that much pull.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 39: The alumni had powerful pull all right.
[UK]F. Norman Too Many Crooks Spoil the Caper 100: If your friend Stanley had any pull at the Home Office, he ought to be able to wangle a permit.
[US] Ice-T ‘Power’ 🎵 Prey on the lame, release those with pull.
[US]D. Hecht Skull Session 457: He’s no doubt got a lot of pull.
[UK]Guardian Mag. 20 May 35: In 1953, aged 21, he got into Columbia University. ‘Through pull. I knew someone who worked there. My grades weren’t good enough.’.
M. Mellon ‘Death of a one-Percenter’ in ThugLit Mar. [ebook] ‘Daddy C has pull with the county board. We get special irrigation rights’.

(b) a trick, a fraud, a knack.

[UK]Dekker Belman of London F2: Diuerse other pullies (if these two faile) haue they to draw simple men into their company.
[UK]Sporting Mag. July II 234/2: Mr. Lookup won between three and four hundred pounds; but it having been hinted to Sir Thomas [...] that Lookup must have had a pull upon him, the baronet commenced an action to recover double damages.
[Aus]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 259: pull [...] A person speaking of any intricate affair, or feat of ingenuity, which he cannot comprehend, will say, There is some pull at the bottom of it, that I’m not fly to.
[UK]in Matthews Cockney Past and Present (1938) 57: A werry tidy pull for coves with a bit of money to lay out.

(c) (US) an unacceptable act or situation.

[US]Ely’s Hawk & Buzzard (NY) Mar. 22 2/2: He used to [...] fall in with his blossom, who would make no bones to introduce him to the larder [...] Now this is a dead pull, and there must be a stop put to it.

(d) a physical advantage.

[UK]G.J. Whyte-Melville Digby Grand (1890) 59: You are the lightest weight, a great pull on snow-shoes.
[Aus]J.F. Mortlock Experiences of a Convict (1965) 26: At roulette the ‘pull’ in favour of the table was about nineteen to eighteen.
[UK]‘Old Calabar’ Won in a Canter II 265: ‘I think, Sir, they will both come to grief. If either of the muffs have a pulì over the other, I consider Mr. Bluster ’as the call’.

(e) an ulterior motive, a hidden agenda.

[UK] ‘’Arry on the ’Oliday Season’ in Punch 16 Aug. 74/1: Life’s greatest pulls, dontcherknow / Are to look up to sparklers above us, and down on poor duffers below.
[US]Ade Artie (1963) 30: ‘Come off,’ I says; ‘he would n’t be writin’ notes and comin’ ’round here unless he had some pull.’.

(f) an anxious or worrying moment that ‘tugs at one’s heartstrings’.

[UK]J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era.
[UK]W. Holtby South Riding (1988) 379: Well, that had been a pull, and risky too.
[Ire]B. Behan Quare Fellow (1960) Act II: It’s a long old pull till eight tomorrow morning.

2. as a physical act.

(a) the act of drinking, a drink.

[UK] ‘The Dame of Honour’ in C. Lovat Fraser Chap Book (1920) Sept. 11: Of humming Beer, my Cellar full, / I was the yearly Doner; / When toping Knaves had many a pull.
[US]Broadway Belle (NY) 10 Sept. n.p.: Taking a hearty ‘pull’ at a pewter pot of foaming ale.
Oreals Indep. Standard (Irasburgh, VT) 18 Nov. 1/2: ‘Well [...] first take a pull on this,’ drawing out a huge bottle.
[US]Eve. Star (Wash., DC) 24 Dec. 1/5: I [...] takes another swingin’ big pull at the rum.
[UK]Regiment 11 June 165/1: [A] hearty pull at the pewter.
[US]W.R. Burnett Quick Brown Fox 115: Brant took a long pull; then he put the bottle between them.
[US]R. Starnes And When She Was Bad 129: He [...] took a pull at the highball.
[US]N. Heard Cold Fire Burning 50: [T]aking another pull on the bottle.
[Aus]J. Byrell (con. 1959) Up the Cross 35: [He] took a careful pull on his vodka.
[US]G.P. Pelecanos Firing Offense 43: [H]e cracked two Colts. He handed me one and we both had long pulls.
[US](con. 1991-94) W. Boyle City of Margins 18: He follows it with a quick pull from his beer.
[Aus]A. Nette Orphan Road 82: Chance took a large pull of the beer.

(b) (US Und.) the act of drawing a gun.

[US]J. Black You Can’t Win (2000) 150: Bad man rode from the Texas Panhandle [...] to shoot it out with him, and he dropped them all. He beat them all to the ‘pull’.

(c) a puff on a pipe; a (puff on a) cigarette.

Dundee People’s Jrnl 25 Nov. 2/5: ‘I have to request that you will [...] put out that pipe.’ ‘O, dear, don’t be disagreeable now [...] why, I’ll favour you with a pull, sir’.
[Scot]Falkirk Herald 6 Apr. 2/1: He takes a pull at the opium-pipe, and then puts it in the mouth of the drowsy lascar.
[US] ‘Smokers’ Sl.’ in AS XV:3 Oct. 336/1: If you only want a puff or two on another person’s cigarette, you might ask for a nip, or a drag, or a pull.
[US](con. 1948) G. Mandel Flee the Angry Strangers 100: ‘Sue me,’ he said, taking a good pull on the stogie.
[SA]A. La Guma Walk in the Night (1968) 77: Take a pull, pally.
[UK](con. 1979–80) A. Wheatle Brixton Rock (2004) 25: Just wrap up another zoot and [...] you’d better give Sharon a few pulls.
[US]D.H. Sterry Chicken (2003) 51: She takes a deep pull on her fag and I feel the heat of her cherry on my belly.
[UK]Jade LB Keisha the Sket (2021) 60: ‘A peice [sic] of rock which woz [...] dun in 2 or 3 pulls’.

(d) an act of masturbation.

[Aus]R.G. Barrett Boys from Binjiwunyawunya 178: Then you can do what you like. Read, think [...] Have a pull if you like.
[Aus]R.G. Barratt ‘Duck It’s the Silly Season’ in What Do You Reckon (1997) [ebook] It [i.e. killing birds] must be a great feeling. Almost as good as the pull they have afterwards.

3. in senses of fig. ‘taking away’.

(a) (UK Und.) a successful theft or the profits it brings.

[UK]W. Phillips Wild Tribes of London 65: There are thieves on all sides of us. They do the work, but who gets the pull? Why, the Jews.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor IV 320/1: That and the following day we had a good pull. It amounted to about 19l-. each.
[UK]J. Greenwood Tag, Rag & Co. 22: ‘It isn’t the likes of me that gets the profit.’ [...] ‘It’s them the makers work for who get the pull.’.

(b) (US) a police raid.

[US]C.R. Wooldridge Hands Up! 79: When a ‘pull’ or raid was made on this place it was necessary to close every avenue of escape.

(c) an act of sexual conquest.

[Aus]E. Dyson Fact’ry ’Ands 182: You’d slap ther town. You’d have firs’ pull ermong ther doods, ’n’ cud pick one t’ suit.
[UK]M. Amis Rachel Papers 33: A mental chant, timor mortis conturbat me, and I began on my clumsiest pull ever.
[UK]G.F. Newman You Flash Bastard 85: Sneed contemplated how he could best give her a pull after their unfavourable start.

(d) an object of sexual conquest; one who can be seduced.

[UK]Fabian & Byrne Groupie 219: ‘I’m not going to sleep with you.’ [...] ‘Why not?’ ‘Because I’m not an easy pull.’.
[UK]M. Amis Rachel Papers 37: It was so obviously me and my pull and Geoffrey and his pull getting together to plan a spotty removal to someone’s house.

(e) an arrest.

[US]W. Brown Run, Chico, Run (1959) 8: A cigarette; a plain-clothes waiting to make a pull wouldn’t light up.
[UK]G.F. Newman Villain’s Tale 55: What happened was I went and got a pull on my form, that’s all. They went and found a fucking shooter at my place, they did.
[UK]J. Sullivan ‘May the Force be with You’ Only Fools and Horses [TV script] You’ve got less chance of a pull than the Queen!
[UK](con. 1979–80) A. Wheatle Brixton Rock (2004) 142: Say the beast caught us at Chemist’s yard, he would have got pull as well.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Layer Cake 74: Did anyone get a pull?
[UK]D. Seabrook Jack of Jumps (2007) 269: After he went the [Kray] twins were expecting a pull, but it didn’t happen.

(f) (Aus.) that which has been earned.

[Aus] ‘Whisper All Aussie Dict.’ in Kings Cross Whisper (Sydney) xxxviii 10/3: pull: Anything earned one way or another.

(g) a prostitute of either sex.

[UK]J. Green It [ebook] One Arab sheikh would have guards with guns in the dining room, and there'd be a couple of male clients, and he'd fill the rest of the table with high class pulls, men and women, two or three of each - stunning, gorgeous women, beautifully dressed, real diamonds, etc.

In phrases

get the pull on (v.)

to have at a disadvantage.

[UK]J. Buchan Thirty-Nine Steps (1930) 74: It made me boil with rage to think of those three spies getting the pull on me like this.
give someone a pull (v.)

1. to tell off, to reprimand.

[UK]F. Norman Bang To Rights 23: Spud Murphy gave him a very strong pull, and put the frighteners on him.

2. to arrest.

[UK]F. Norman in Punch 17 Mar. in Norman’s London (1969) 158: One [policeman] even gave me a pull and told me that I was very naughty not to go around committing crimes.

3. to notify.

[UK]K. Richards Life 530: I got a pull from Chrissy Kingston [...] about this amazing mongrel.
take a pull (at/on) (v.)

(Aus. ) to assess (oneself).

[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 6 July 3/6: ‘I’m gettin’ somethin’ ’orribul, beginnin’ to see things. I think I’ll have to take a pull’.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 28 June 1/1: The king of Katanning needs to take a pull at himself [...] he hasn’t exactly the power ascribed to the Czar.
[Aus]Sport (Adelaide) 7 June 12/2: Paddy, the fisherman king, has taken on buying fish instead of feeding them. It's time he took a pull.
[UK]‘Josephine Tey’ Singing Sands 213: He had been in danger of letting his flair bolt with him. He must take a pull on himself.