I'm trying to express a situation were someone is being forced/persuaded to move in a certain direction by another person, not in a violent, but rather a humorous, way.

The word I'm thinking of using is shoved. I am however worried that it would be interpreted as violent and not, as intend, amusing.

Cartoony example:

The man was shoved towards the department store by his enthusiastic spouse.

Can the word shoved be used without violent connotations? Is there a better word to use in the example above?

  • 1
    This is all just a matter of opinion. Personally, I don't see any significant connotations of "violence" in a fellow who had blatantly shoved into the queue at a museum entrance, just "violation" (of protocol, good manners). Jul 5, 2015 at 16:44
  • 1
    ...and there's never likely to be any exhortation to violence if you're asked to Shove up and make room (on a church pew, for example, so more people can sit down). Jul 5, 2015 at 16:48
  • 1
    This may be regional. For me, shoving into a queue would imply a level of violence. Jul 5, 2015 at 16:59
  • @chasly: Like I said, it's really just a matter of opinion. But surely you wouldn't expect a violent response in the church pew context? Jul 5, 2015 at 17:18
  • 1
    Your example paints a vivid picture. I perceive no vehement intent; only that her desire to shop for bridesmaids dresses far exceeds his.
    – Mazura
    Jul 5, 2015 at 22:54

10 Answers 10


As it has been stated, "shove" does not necessarily imply violence, but does imply a sort of violation. I would suggest "The man was herded towards..." This captures the forceful intent by his spouse, without implying negative feelings.

   1.(with reference to a group of people or animals) move in a particular direction.

Hustle might work as an alternative to the violent implications of shoved, :


1 [WITH OBJECT] Push roughly; jostle:
they were hissed and hustled as they went in

1.1 [WITH OBJECT AND ADVERBIAL OF DIRECTION] Force (someone) to move hurriedly or unceremoniously:
I was hustled away to a cold cell

1.2 [NO OBJECT, WITH ADVERBIAL OF DIRECTION] Push one’s way; bustle:
Stockwell hustled into the penalty area

2 [WITH OBJECT] informal , chiefly North American Obtain illicitly or by forceful action:
Linda hustled money from men she met

2.1 (hustle someone into) Pressure someone into doing something:
don’t be hustled into anything unless you really want to

Although both hustle and shove can denote the same sense of pushing, hustle can also connote a less violent compulsion. The context of the OP leaves the interpretation open, but welcomes the "gentler" sense of hurried pressure:

The man was hustled towards the department store by his enthusiastic spouse.

The definition of shove is pretty straightforward:


[WITH OBJECT] 1.0 Push (someone or something) roughly:
police started pushing and shoving people down the street

[NO OBJECT]: kids pushed, kicked, and shoved

1.1 [NO OBJECT, WITH ADVERBIAL OF DIRECTION] Make one’s way by pushing someone or something:
Woolley shoved past him

The operational definition of the OP is actually violent:


1.0 Using or involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something:
a violent confrontation with riot police

1.1 Law Involving an unlawful exercise or exhibition of force.

At a strictly interpersonal level, it would not be violence if there was no intent to harm, but there can always be two interpretations of intent. The person shoving interprets their own intentions objectively, while the one being shoved interprets those intentions subjectively. The legal definition comes into play when the person being shoved feels violated enough to ask the police to intervene. Even then the police may just show up to cool things down.

There is no legal violence in shoving if both parties agreed to rough each other up--including a gradual escalation in conflict. The players in a rugby or American football game, are often shoving each other violently, but the participants find some pleasure in exchanging these harmful actions to test their mettle. In ice hockey players can actually have a grand fist fight, while the spectators cheer them on, but they each spend 5 minutes in the penalty box as a token nod to the fact that we still disapprove of violence in general.

In the context of the OP, the connotations would be a matter of divergent opinion. Was the action of shoving actually harmful? Does the woman intend to violate the man's freedom, dignity or physical wellbeing? Does the man feel violated? Have they agreed to enjoy this shoving process on the way to the store? The interpretation of any third party would be highly subjective.

  • 1
    Since this Question seems to have majored on alternatives, perhaps you should lead with hustle?
    – Ed Miller
    Jul 6, 2015 at 23:33

nudge : to touch or push (someone or something) gently : to encourage (someone) to do something http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nudge

  • 'nudge' was my first thought too. It depends whether the action is momentary or continuous. Jul 5, 2015 at 16:56
  • 3
    If it’s more continuous and a bit more adamant, bustle would be another good option. Jul 5, 2015 at 18:03
  • 1
    This is the best answer. You should put the word nudge in bold or something (use the bold tool in the editor, or add two **'s both before and after it) Jul 5, 2015 at 23:56

I suggest "propelled" or "steered". If you shove someone it implies unwelcome force.

  • 1
    Also 'guided' or 'urged.'
    – Elijah
    Jul 5, 2015 at 17:07

Perhaps the word chivvy (or sometimes chivy)

To maneuver or secure gradually: "had spent two weeks chivvying this division toward combat readiness" (Tom Clancy)

American Heritage Dictionary

Not necessarily involving humor, but a gradual urging.


I love Mazura's comment, haha! I would give an upvote to chasly for "propelled" or "steered" if I could (but as a newbie, not yet allowed) with a thumbs-up to Elijah's "guided" or "urged" as well. I would like to add push as my choice for a word that fits comfortably between the more forceful "shove," and the too-timid "nudge."

  • On second thought, I think PULLED works even better in the cartoony example given!
    – W9WBH
    Jul 6, 2015 at 3:11
  • It would surely take some inordinate effort to infer any kind of violence there.
    – W9WBH
    Jul 6, 2015 at 3:28

I have seen adjectives used in front of the word "shoved" to describe the event you are talking about like gently or lovingly or jokingly to soften the word.


The only way that shoving a person could not be of violent intent would be when it was due to accident, emergency (thank you Chris) or gross boorishness. It implies a strong physical contact. Shoving an object is not necessarily violent, but indicates that not much care is being taken of the object.

The word you are looking for is probably nudged per Gary's answer. If the woman shoved her husband toward the department store, she must have been a rather violent womant and he must have been a severly henpecked man.

  • Would you regard "shoving him out of the way of the approaching bus" as violent?
    – Chris H
    Jul 6, 2015 at 7:51

I would recommend the verb "border-collied" as this is amusing and helps to visualize a person gently and relentlessly being herded like a sheep.


might I suggest "Nudge" or "Elbow" as non-violent replacements for the harsher-sounding "Shove"

  • Hi Kitsune and welcome to ELU! Those are good suggestions, but you should consider adding their definitions to your answer.
    – Dog Lover
    Jul 6, 2015 at 11:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.