tug one's forelock


to behave in a respectful way

STATISTICS

IN THE PRESS

To touch or tug one's forelock as an informal salute to a (supposed) superior probably originated in Nelson's Navy. First recorded in writing by Harriet Martineau in 1832:

"There was plenty of bobbing from the girls and pulling of forelocks from the boys."

In days when hats were more generally worn, who uncovered his head to whom was a question of profound etiquette. The Duc de Saint-Simon wrote a book of 100,000 words entirely devoted to the question of who uncovers or tugs forelock to whom.

Those without a hat or cap signalled respect by touching or tugging their forelocks. It is a kind of salute. To raise one's cap or hat, or at any rate to touch its brim, is an appropriate gesture of greeting to friends, acquaintances, and even strangers.

Philip Howard

Did you
know?

fore-lock
noun

A lock of hair that grows from or falls on the forehead, especially the part of a horse's mane that falls forward between the ears.

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

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tug one's forelock = to touch the front of one's head as a sign of respect


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