draw, draws, drawn, drew, drawer, drawers – withdraw – drawls

One of my favourite examples of a word with an awful lot of meaning wrapped into four letters:


It seems simple enough. As in when we draw a picture right?

Let’s think about it. This meaning of the word seems to stem more broadly from to draw, as in to draw out. Say when we go to the nurse and she takes some blood, she will draw it out, or more simple put, draw some blood. To draw, in this sense, suggests something that comes out, perhaps painfully, or even carefully. If one has ever tried to draw, as in art, one can well sense why it is such an appropriate word.

However draw can also refer to something that goes in. That is to draw in, or draw near. To draw, in this sense, means something along the lines of a pull, or an invisible force. So we could say I was drawn by the wondrous light display, or while I was swimming at the beach the rip drew me under.

So draw then, broadly speaking, can have the meaning of being pulled from something or being sucked into something else. Back to the nurse we could saw that they drew blood from your arm and it was drawn into the syringe.

So we can have, in the sense of pull out from something:

  • to draw a weapon;
  • to draw a picture;
  • to draw one’s life blood.

And in the sense of being sucked into something, (curiously usually in the past tense):

  • drawn into a rip;
  • drawn by the light;
  • drawn by her love for me.

Okay. Simple. Right?

But what about drawers, as in furniture? Is it a variation of to draw? As in draw out. We draw out our drawers, so we call them drawers? (Is this also where we get drawers meaning underpants, because they come from drawers?) Possibly.

But what about drawer, as in the withdrawer in a financial transaction? There could well be a third meaning here. To draw, as in to draw from, or draw on. Unlike to draw out which has a sense of difficulty, to draw from has that same sense of pull, however this time with ease, or least from a larger source.

So we might have then:

  • to draw from the bank;
  • to draw on your reserves;
  • to draw a blank. (to try and draw from a larger source, but fail)

Withdraw then is a tricky one for the prefix with- means against. Withdraw, means then against the draw. Draw in this sense meaning to be sucked into something else. So withdraw then is to take something back against the prevailing paradigm. A meaning our banks might not be so happy about. Of course common usage would have us simply use withdraw to mean, to take from, and that is entirely appropriate and correct.

Of course, a drawl is a particular way of speaking with longer vowel sounds. Particularly, a Southern Drawl or an Australian Drawl. There is no particular close relationship between these word forms.

Finally. Draw is not a word that causes confusion, for good reason. For despite it’s mixed usage it is exactly that usage and context that guides us. Something to remember in all our writing.

Middle English drawen, dragen, from Old English dragan; akin to Old Norse draga to draw, drag

Really finally, if you made it this far perhaps give your brain a break and try http://www.drawastickman.com/

Author: Glen J Player

I’m a writer, activist, runner and art lover. I’m currently writing a novel. Here I’ll be musing on story, myth, language, art and politics. All opinions on this blog are my own.