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 Death in Venice would be the culmination of this tendency in later Visconti. Jo Livingstone, The New Republic, 24 Sep. 2021 Taking the long-term view Humans naturally tend to be poor at thinking long term, and current business practices can exacerbate this tendency. Sharon Thorne, Forbes, 23 Sep. 2021 Being mindful of this tendency can help prevent it from inhaling half your day. Reward yourself. Washington Post, 9 July 2021 Their conclusion was that this tendency could make determining majority-minority districts more difficult. Paulina Pineda, The Arizona Republic, 11 Aug. 2021 This tendency also minimizes the groups’ collective exposure to the external elements, such as the cold or predators. Shi En Kim, Smithsonian Magazine, 29 June 2021 While the exact percentages can vary based on context, this tendency consistently shows itself in a wide range of areas including intelligence, possession of desirable personality traits, and on-the-job performance. Tony Gambill, Forbes, 22 June 2021 This Southern tendency to wring something out to the last drop has trickled down to my home, where cooking for two people can yield odd serving sizes and plenty of leftovers. Mary Shannon Wells, Southern Living, 10 May 2021 This unfortunate tendency is known as imposter syndrome that sadly afflicts many qualified women who feel like a fraud despite their excellent credentials and experience. Barbara Bry, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3 May 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

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The first known use of tendency was in 1628

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Last Updated

5 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tendency.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tendency. Accessed 15 Oct. 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

More from Merriam-Webster on tendency

Nglish: Translation of tendency for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tendency for Arabic Speakers


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