Pull rank

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To pull rank means to use one’s more privileged or senior position in order to get one’s way. A person who pulls rank is generally using an unfair advantage in order to gain the upper hand in a disagreement, argument or competition. The idiom pull rank was first seen in 1919, presumably borrowed from the military. In the military, men and women of higher rank give orders to men and women of lower rank. It is assumed that when men returned to civilian life after serving in World War I they brought some of the military lingo with them, including pull rank. Related terms are pulls rank, pulled rank and pulling rank.


It’s a strict, if often dysfunctional, extended family: our experience as Clinton loyalists, the most existential and embattled folk in American political life, is unlike any other, so don’t ever try to pull rank on us or to assume you can ever truly be one of us. (GQ Magazine)

Have you ever witnessed people who “pull rank” on another person who is lower in the organization’s hierarchy? (The Los Angeles Times)

One of the areas Bale has occasionally been subservient to Ronaldo on is free-kicks, with the Portuguese seeming to pull rank in dead ball situations.  (The Telegraph)

Once everybody gets over the wow factor, they see that Triple H is here to help and not pull rank on everybody as the organization’s Big Kahuna. (The Orlando Sentinel)

But that will mean Palazczuk will have to pull rank over the unions that helped deliver her victory – and it’s hard to see how that will happen. (The Brisbane Times)

“Rather than have the boss pull rank, draw straws and whoever gets the shortest straw has to milk.” (The Southland Times)