ten·​den·​cy | \ ˈten-dən(t)-sē How to pronounce tendency (audio) \
plural tendencies

Definition of tendency

1a : a proneness to a particular kind of thought or action
b : direction or approach toward a place, object, effect, or limit
2a : the purposeful trend of something written or said : aim
b : deliberate but indirect advocacy

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Synonyms for tendency


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tendency, trend, drift, tenor, current mean movement in a particular direction. tendency implies an inclination sometimes amounting to an impelling force. a general tendency toward inflation trend applies to the general direction maintained by a winding or irregular course. the long-term trend of the stock market is upward drift may apply to a tendency determined by external forces the drift of the population away from large cities or it may apply to an underlying or obscure trend of meaning or discourse. got the drift of her argument tenor stresses a clearly perceptible direction and a continuous, undeviating course. the tenor of the times current implies a clearly defined but not necessarily unalterable course. an encounter that changed the current of my life

Examples of tendency in a Sentence

The economy has shown a general tendency toward inflation. a tendency to drop things
Recent Examples on the Web Throughout the exhibition, this tendency to geometry and abstraction recurs, connecting figurative work to occasional forays into pure abstraction. Washington Post, "Faith Ringgold is an artist, an activist and a prophet. But that’s only scratching the surface.," 31 Mar. 2021 The difficulty the media has had covering the recent rise in anti-Asian violence feels related to that decades-old tendency to decenter Asian Americans in their own stories — a void in empathy, a failure of understanding. Alison Willmore, Vulture, "What Was the Asian American Character Actor?," 26 Mar. 2021 Your natural tendency, human nature, is to always look and see if there’s an opportunity. Duane Rankin, The Arizona Republic, "'I love our guys': Monty Williams focused on red-hot Suns going into trade deadline," 24 Mar. 2021 This tendency to invent a remote past—the Necronomicon; the nonwhite, non-Western Cthulhu cults—marks Lovecraft out as a man of his time. Siddhartha Deb, The New Republic, "The Shadow Over H.P. Lovecraft," 19 Mar. 2021 And there are countless other reasons for a second fridge: frequent entertaining; storing kimchi or other specialties that take time to age; a tendency toward hoarding; or simply the cost of getting rid of a refrigerator. Cynthia Greenlee, New York Times, "When One Fridge Is Not Enough," 23 Feb. 2021 Was there some tendency that those around him could have spotted? Belinda Luscombe, Time, "What an Expert on Evangelicals and Sex Says About the Atlanta Shooter's Claim He Had a Sex Addiction," 20 Mar. 2021 There is this tendency in the architectural press to look for the white male genius. Los Angeles Times, "Architecture’s whiteness by design can change. Mabel Wilson shows us how in MoMA show," 19 Mar. 2021 Even more striking is his Liebestod, in Liszt’s arrangement—a free, rhapsodic, surprisingly graceful account, in keeping with Proust’s tendency to cherish Wagner on his own terms, without grandiose hysteria. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "Conjuring the Music of Proust’s Salons," 15 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tendency.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of tendency

1628, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

History and Etymology for tendency

borrowed from Medieval Latin tendentia, noun derivative of Latin tendent-, tendens, present participle of tendere "to extend outward, stretch, spread out, direct (one's course), aim (at a purpose)" (Medieval Latin, "to lead toward, move in a particular direction") — more at tender entry 3

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Time Traveler for tendency

Time Traveler

The first known use of tendency was in 1628

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Statistics for tendency

Last Updated

8 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tendency.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tendency. Accessed 10 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for tendency



English Language Learners Definition of tendency

: a quality that makes something likely to happen or that makes someone likely to think or behave in a particular way
: a way of behaving, proceeding, etc., that is developing and becoming more common


ten·​den·​cy | \ ˈten-dən-sē How to pronounce tendency (audio) \
plural tendencies

Kids Definition of tendency

1 : a leaning toward a particular kind of thought or action Elizabeth had a tendency to worry about things like not having permission.— Zilpha Keatley Snyder, The Egypt Game
2 : a way of doing something that is becoming more common : trend

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