(TL;DR) What does to draw tight mean? Does it relate to: to press together?

streig- [=] To stroke, rub, press. European root.
... from Latin stringere, to draw tight, press together.

I ask NOT about etymology. Here's my attempt to parse to draw tight. Is it right?
The verb 'draw' has many meanings, but here I guess 'to pull' as per Definition 2.

I guess that tight here is an adjective, as a predicative adjunct (aka Secondary predicate). However, ODO classifies it as an adverb also.

Footnote: See more about this PIE root here.

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    Are you claiming that draw is related to streig-? Or that tight is related to streig-? I do not follow your question.
    – TimR
    May 28, 2015 at 21:39
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because according to the Help Centre, "This is not the right site for questions about: Etymology."
    – user6951
    May 29, 2015 at 0:27
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    @TRomano Thanks. Sorry if my OP frustrated you. I included it to show the reliability of the source and the context. In the past on ELL, I've been asked to contextualise more.
    – user8712
    May 29, 2015 at 18:10
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    @TRomano My motive was truly to know what "draw tight" meant, and how to understand "tight" grammatically. However, I also wanted to know whether 'to draw tight' means press together, because the claims this equality. No; I never intended to question their gloss of Latin stringere. Does this help?
    – user8712
    May 29, 2015 at 23:56
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    @LawArea51Proposal-Commit Area 51 Proposal - Commit: You are needlessly discouraging someone who wants to learn. You should congratulate him on the depth of his study and disposition to provide context. We are a small community so we don't have the luxury of discouraging people who want to use the forum to further their study. Etymology is part of the language therefore relevant.
    – Andrew
    Jun 2, 2015 at 19:33

4 Answers 4


Draw tight as you surmise doesn't mean exactly the same thing as press together. They are opposite actions— pulling (for 'Draw tight') as opposed to pushing (for press together)— but both can have the same end result: something has been constrained or compressed into a space of reduced dimensions.

This is more clear if you provide an object, to draw [sth.] tight refers to pulling on it to constrict it. It's most common to speak of laces or a belt in this way, but you could also say

She drew the covers tight around her sleeping son.

The novice drew the parachute straps tight, so tight he could hardly breathe.

The covers and the straps are being pulled to tighten them. At the same time, the covers and the straps are pushing or pressing against the son and the parachutist respectively.

In other cases, the pulling does not imply a pushing or squeezing action. For instance, without an object, draw tight refers to the subject being pulled tight or taut:

The rope drew tight around his neck.

Her face was drawn tight with the strain.

As the sails fill with wind, the lines draw tight.

And when speaking of multiple independent subjects, draw tight means to move closer together, physically or metaphorically; if there is pushing, it comes from an outside force, in which case the multiple independent subjects are no longer drawing [themselves].

The soldiers drew tight as the shelling intensified.

Since the rioting, the shop owners have drawn tight against the mayor.

With regards to terminology: I have no background in linguistics, but to my layman sensibilities, having a secondary predicate would seem to require a main predicate, e.g. a direct object as in draw the knots tight. I would not call it an adjunct, as it is required to communicate the meaning; the children drew is something other than the children drew tight.

Thus, I would simply describe tight as a subject complement adjective. As I see it, draw tight is analogous to grow dark, wax lyrical, or turn criminal.


To answer the question in your title:

"draw" can refer to the action of pulling on a cinch-rope or laces, e.g. shoelaces. When you pull the laces tight, the pieces are pulled together.

See: drawstring


Imagine you have 8 beads on a string.

enter image description here

Tie a knot at one end. Take the bead closest to you and push it toward the knot.

What happens to the space between the other beads?

Now you can say that the beads are "tight." To draw in this case means to pull an object.

So "to draw tight" means to manipulate an array or series of objects so that the space between them is reduced considerably.

  • Thanks, but I don't understand your 1st 2 sentences. About What happens to the space between the other beads?, the space INcreases When you push the bead towards the knot, then this bead becomes farther from the other 7, which have remained where they have been. Right?
    – user8712
    Jun 26, 2015 at 16:46
  • When you push something, you are move it away from you. The bead closest to you is the also the bead furthest from the knot. &--O--O--O--O-----O-- <=push=] (You) If you push the bead closest to you the other beads will move toward the knot. First, though, the space between the beads is recursively diminished to 0. Like this: This example is probably best suited to an in-person explanation.
    – Andrew
    Jul 1, 2015 at 22:44

You draw drawstrings tight. There are some pictures with the wikipedia article.

In this context, draw means to pull. See wiktionary definition 2.1.

If you have a string around an opening, and pull on the ends, then the opening becomes smaller, i.e. tighter. So when you pull on the strings and the opening becomes small, you've drawn it tight.

In this sense, yes it is similar to press together, but it's not you pressing anything directly. You pull something, and the effect is that it presses something else together.

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