ten·​den·​cy | \ˈten-dən(t)-sē \
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 reason for the latter recommendation is that arsenic has a tendency to transform to the airborne arsine (AsH3) given the right conditions of humidity and light. James Rogers, Fox News, "Deadly discovery: Poisonous books found in university library," 6 July 2018 Contrary to a lot of hazy stereotypes, presidential efforts to use the bully pulpit have a tendency to backfire in exactly this way. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Support for immigration is surging in the Trump era," 5 July 2018 Best scene: Baseball movies, including this one, have a tendency to tug on people's heartstrings. 5. Peter Dawson, star-telegram, "Ranking the top 7 Texas sports movies of all time — and their best scenes," 28 June 2018 The Real Housewives Of New York O.G. has a tendency to stick her foot directly in her mouth and then deny the fact there’s even a designer shoe hanging out of her lips. refinery29.com, "Did Ramona Singer Finally Have A Breakthrough On RHONY?," 28 June 2018 Brooks points out that Newton likes to work the middle of the field and has a tendency to overthrow his receivers. Joseph Person, charlotteobserver, "He said: Too many offensive playmakers in NFL draft for Panthers to pass up | Charlotte Observer," 20 Apr. 2018 In an on-camera interview with local television station ABC 7, Huang's wife, Sevonne, said that prior to his death, Huang had complained to her that the car had a tendency to drive toward the exact traffic barrier that ultimately killed him. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Tesla blames driver in last month’s fatal crash with Autopilot engaged," 12 Apr. 2018 Moriarty was charged with engaging in conduct that has a tendency to destroy public respect and confidence in the department. Isabelle D'antonio, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Daytona Beach Shores officer fired for offensive Snapchat, officials say," 12 Apr. 2018 Some American liberals today—especially the secular, who are often ignorant of intra-religious conflicts—have a tendency to see the Christian right as typical of all politically active Christian denominations. Linda Gordon, The New Republic, "How birth-control leaders found allies in American religious groups," 5 Apr. 2018

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

Medieval Latin tendentia, from Latin tendent-, tendens, present participle of tendere

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Statistics for tendency

Last Updated

4 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tendency

The first known use of tendency was in 1628

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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 \
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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More from Merriam-Webster on tendency

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tendency

Spanish Central: Translation of tendency

Nglish: Translation of tendency for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tendency for Arabic Speakers

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).


obstinately defiant of authority

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