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 The 62-year-old real estate broker said he's been frustrated by Trump's tendency to exaggerate his support among black voters. The Washington Post, al, "Man Trump called ‘my African American’ says GOP’s ‘only concern is for whites’," 14 Sep. 2019 Democrats have been hobbled by a tendency to focus on the federal government while Republicans made major investments in the states. NBC News, "Democrats' focus on the White House may be crowding out the state house — and it might cost them big," 4 Aug. 2019 Black and yellow halves (presumably inspired by Watford's tendency to have two wildly contrasting halves to the season) is a nice look, especially with the bits of red trim. SI.com, "Premier League Kits 2019/20: Every Home Shirt Ranked From Worst to Best," 22 July 2019 This work rate is undermined, however, by a tendency to skim through briefing papers, these people say. Max Colchester, WSJ, "Tories Pin Brexit Hopes on Boris Johnson, Blunders and All," 28 June 2019 Countless people are harmed by societal tendencies like those in the Handmaid’s Tale. Dave Quinn, PEOPLE.com, "The Handmaid’s Tale Star Bradley Whitford Calls Kylie Jenner’s Gilead-Themed Party ‘Tacky’," 12 June 2019 Fuller had four interceptions last season to Peters’ five (albeit a number minimized by opponents’ tendency to throw away from Peters) and was rated by Pro Football Focus as the sixth-best cornerback in the NFL. Vahe Gregorian, kansascity, "Kendall Fuller isn't Marcus Peters, and for the Chiefs, that's kind of the point," 14 June 2018 The 62-year-old real estate broker said he’s been frustrated by Trump’s tendency to exaggerate his support among black voters. Meagan Flynn, Washington Post, "‘Their only concern is for whites’: Man who Trump called ‘my African American’ leaves GOP," 13 Sep. 2019 In its extreme form, this tendency is more common than previously believed, according to a new study. baltimoresun.com, "Are you an ‘extreme early bird’?," 11 Sep. 2019

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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Statistics for tendency

Last Updated

4 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for tendency

The first known use of tendency was in 1628

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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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Comments on tendency

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


to engage in dissolute behavior

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