Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary
1

tough

play
adjective \ˈtəf\

Simple Definition of tough

  • : very difficult to do or deal with

  • : physically and emotionally strong : able to do hard work, to deal with harsh conditions, etc.

  • : physically strong and violent

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of tough

  1. 1a :  strong or firm in texture but flexible and not brittleb :  not easily chewed <tough meat>

  2. 2 :  glutinous, sticky

  3. 3 :  characterized by severity or uncompromising determination <tough laws> <tough discipline>

  4. 4 :  capable of enduring strain, hardship, or severe labor <tough soldiers>

  5. 5 :  very hard to influence :  stubborn <a tough negotiator>

  6. 6 :  difficult to accomplish, resolve, endure, or deal with <a tough question> <tough luck>

  7. 7 :  stubbornly fought <a tough contest>

  8. 8 :  unruly, rowdyish <a tough gang>

  9. 9 :  marked by absence of softness or sentimentality <a tough critic>

toughly adverb
toughness noun

Examples of tough in a sentence

  1. I have a tough constitution, and my profession taught me how to compete against long odds and big obstacles. —Lance Armstrong, It's Not About The Bike, (2000) 2001

  2. … Pelletreau had firsthand experience in dealing with Israelis as well as with Arabs and had a reputation for being bold, analytical, and tough as nails. —Robert D. Kaplan, The Arabists, 1993

  3. He had on the other hand to preserve his own reputation as a tough D.A. who dealt handily with the criminal classes. —E. L. Doctorow, Ragtime, (1974) 1975

  4. … this wiry, tough, frenetic Algerian with the beneficent smile, who could vault over the bar and stiff-arm a drunk out into the night in less time than it takes to say Edgar Poe, and return, bland as butter, to take up where he left off … —William Styron, “The Paris Review,” August 1953, in William Styron, This Quiet Dust And Other Writings, (1953) 1982

  5. She had a tough time in college.

  6. Are you tough enough for the job?

  7. He's been hanging around with a bunch of tough guys.

  8. The rug is made of tough material.



Origin of tough

Middle English, from Old English tōh; akin to Old High German zāhi tough


First Known Use: before 12th century

Synonym Discussion of tough

strong, stout, sturdy, stalwart, tough, tenacious mean showing power to resist or to endure. strong may imply power derived from muscular vigor, large size, structural soundness, intellectual or spiritual resources <strong arms> <the defense has a strong case>. stout suggests an ability to endure stress, pain, or hard use without giving way <stout hiking boots>. sturdy implies strength derived from vigorous growth, determination of spirit, solidity of construction <a sturdy table> <people of sturdy independence>. stalwart suggests an unshakable dependability <stalwart environmentalists>. tough implies great firmness and resiliency <a tough political opponent>. tenacious suggests strength in seizing, retaining, clinging to, or holding together <tenacious farmers clinging to an age-old way of life>.

2

tough

play
adverb \ˈtəf\

Simple Definition of tough

  • : in a way that shows that you are strong or tough

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of tough

  1. :  in a tough manner (see 1tough) <talking tough>

Examples of tough in a sentence

  1. He talks tough but he's not really dangerous.



Origin of tough

(see 1tough)


First Known Use: 14th century


3

tough

play
noun \ˈtəf\

Simple Definition of tough

  • : a tough and violent person

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of tough

  1. :  a tough and violent person :  rowdy

Examples of tough in a sentence

  1. One night, after antagonizing a gang of older toughs, he had his face smashed in with a hockey stick. —John Harris, Rolling Stone, 14 Nov. 2002

  2. They weren't strong enough to fight Sankoh and his hopped-up young toughs, who number in the thousands. —Tom Masland, et al., Newsweek, 15 May 2000

  3. The subways provided fine service, except that lately there had been a problem. Packs of young toughs had taken to roaming the cars. —Tom Wolf, Harper's, November 1989

  4. <didn't want her son hanging out with the neighborhood toughs>



Origin of tough

(see 1tough)


First Known Use: 1801


4

tough

play
transitive verb \ˈtəf\

Definition of tough

  1. :  to bear unflinchingly :  endure —usually used with out especially in the phrase tough it out



Examples of tough in a sentence

  1. Summer in New York is coasting the dairy aisle at Safeway. … It's finding the spot in a subway car where the vent blows strongest and staying there past your stop, toughing it out when the “excuse me, ladies and gentlemen” hard-luck stories blow through. —Guy Trebay, Village Voice, 30 July 1991

  2. … they were toughing it out with the help of the greatest ally a macho young cop ever had, booze. —Joseph Wambaugh, Lines and Shadows, 1984



Origin of tough

(see 1tough)


First Known Use: 1830



TOUGH Defined for Kids

tough

play
adjective \ˈtəf\

Definition of tough for Students

toughertoughest

  1. 1 :  strong or firm but flexible and not brittle <tough fibers> <tough leather>

  2. 2 :  not easily chewed <tough meat>

  3. 3 :  physically or emotionally strong enough to put up with strain or hardship

  4. 4 :  very strict, firm, or determined <a tough coach> <tough rules>

  5. 5 :  very difficult to do or deal with <We've had some tough times.> <The math test was tough.>

  6. 6 :  lawless 2 <a tough neighborhood>

toughness noun




Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up tough? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

immature or lacking adult sophistication

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

image567572573

Which of these is a synonym of unctuous?

oily angry maudlin prompt
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ