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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Choose the Right Synonym for tendency

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 Decades on from the polio vaccine, healthcare officials still have a tendency to dismiss vaccine concerns as irrational. Olivia Goldhill, Quartz, "American healthcare’s racist history helped fuel a fear of vaccines," 30 July 2020 But, as Stafford knows all too well and Golladay likely will learn soon, the Lions' longtime losing ways have a tendency to cloud individual players' performances. Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press, "No Detroit Lions ranked on NFL's top 100 players for 2020," 29 July 2020 Only later still could the gloomy sociologist see, mirrored in that Puritan epic, our own dismal tendency to approach life itself as a task. George Blaustein, The New Republic, "Searching for Consolation in Max Weber’s Work Ethic," 2 July 2020 Sullivan isn't nearly alone in her tendency to pull from her own life to draft her fiction, but sometimes the accidental similarities can border on eerie. EW.com, "J. Courtney Sullivan's newest novel 'Friends and Strangers' is the latest of her self-fulfilling prophecies," 29 June 2020 Colleagues complained, however, that his tendency to question orders bordered on insubordination. Anna Mulrine Grobe, The Christian Science Monitor, "‘The time has come’: Which US bases may lose their Confederate namesakes?," 18 June 2020 As adults, our natural tendency is to do a lot of talking when kids share their worries. Lynn Burrell, Scientific American, "To Process Grief over COVID-19, Children Need Empathetic Listening," 18 June 2020 Biden could have some relief from criticism due to his tendency to attach himself to popular Obama administration initiatives. Emily Larsen, Washington Examiner, "Civil libertarians have a beef with Joe Biden over asset forfeiture," 17 June 2020 The sciences are well known for their infuriating tendency to overlook important figures who aren’t white and male. Marina Koren, The Atlantic, "The Legacy of a Hidden Figure," 24 Feb. 2020

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

5 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Tendency.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tendency. Accessed 11 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for tendency


How to pronounce tendency (audio)

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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