Pull one’s punches

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Pull one’s punches is an idiom. We will examine the meaning of the common saying pull one’s punches, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To pull one’s punches means to go easy on someone or something, to restrain from applying the full force of one’s judgement or criticism, to soften the truth to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. The expression is also rendered in the negative: not pull any punches, which means to expend the full force of one’s judgement, criticism, or opinion on someone. Both phrases came into use in the 1920s and are derived from the sport of boxing. In boxing, a contestant may literally pull his punch in order to land a softer blow than he is capable of landing. A boxer may do this if he is only sparring or if he wants to lose the contest on purpose. Related phrases are pulls one’s punches, pulled one’s punches, pulling one’s punches.


You’ve covered a number of stories over the years that involved your colleagues – have you ever pulled your punches on a boss’ order? (New Zealand Herald)

Joe Biden was running an anticorruption agenda in Ukraine and he pulled his punches while his son was on the board of Burisma. (Highland County Press)

Recently, Canberra pushed to ensure the international enquiry into the early handling of COVID-19 pandemic and its reporting doesn’t pull any punches. (Republic World)