to subtract, to deduct
("etwas abziehen von" - NOT for deducting in the context of taxes.)
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to do, to pull
("etwas abziehen" - Colloquial verb for the idea of doing something scammy or "show"-y. Quite common in combination with "Show" in the sense of someone making a fuss about something. )
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to pull off
(In a literal sense, like for instance a band-aid or a protective cover. NOT for "pulling off" in the sense of success.)
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to escape, to move away, to retreat
(For fumes and gasses as well as armies. But NOT for normal people moving out of town. That would be "wegziehen".)
Opposite: aufziehen
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Advent Calendar 20 - "All pulled together"
Prefix Verbs Explained - "abziehen"

A quick look at the various meanings of "abziehen" and the noun "der Abzug" and one of the most graceful German words ever. And some Hegel.

Word Family

Root: *deuk-

The core idea of this root was:

leading, pulling

So already back then, the double theme that we have in ziehen today was present. Pulling and guiding share the idea of “giving a way from in front”.
A good leader “pulls” their followers along.

The idea of pulling can be found in English members of this family like tow, tug, tie and also team.

The far bigger group though are the words that are based on the Latin verb *ducere. This was the Latin verb for to lead and it’s the core of dozens of words like produce, conduct, educate, seduce or duke.

Here’s an incomplete list of English family members:

  • to tow (pulling)
  • to tug (pulling)
  • to tie (pulling)
  • team (originally, a line of descent, family lineage)
  • induce (“lead in”)
  • introduce, introduction (“lead into”)
  • produce, product (“lead forth”)
  • seduce, seduction,…  (“lead/pull aside”)
  • abduct, abduction,… (“lead/pull away”)
  • reduce, reduction, … (“to pull back”)
  • decude, deduction, … (“to pull from”)
  • educate, education, … (“to pull out, to bring out”)
  • conduct, conduit, … (“to lead, to bring together”)
  • the Duke  (“the leader”, based on Italian title “Duce”)
  • aqueduct (“leading water”)
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