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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for tendency


aptness, proneness, propensity, way

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

However question marks have been raised over the youngsters tendency to go missing in big games, whilst his goal return has also been underwhelming, having scored only seven goals for the Foxes over the past two seasons. SI.com, "Lazio Plotting Move for Leicester Winger as Replacement for West Ham-Bound Felipe Anderson," 19 June 2018 After conferring with technicians on the ground, the flight crew turned off one of the ADIRUs and the plane’s tendency to dive went away. Jeff Wise, Popular Mechanics, "4 Times Before the Boeing 737 Max 8 That Plane Automation Software Went Haywire," 18 Mar. 2019 According to Isobel, Kate's natural tendency for compassion and helping others was on full display, even as a competitive eight year old. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Kate Middleton Obsessed About Earning Badges in Her Girl Scout Troop as a Kid," 17 Mar. 2019 Pence, too, rejected the idea that he’d been undermined by the president or had difficulty building trust on Capitol Hill because of Trump’s tendency to change his mind. Laurie Kellman, The Seattle Times, "Pence tested in role of messenger for Trump policies," 13 Jan. 2019 The tendency for others to Google *how to host a holiday party* is high, but why? Taylor Mead, House Beautiful, "Everything Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's Rachel Brosnahan Learned From Hosting Her First Holiday Party," 7 Dec. 2018 Here was someone with a head on his shoulders, successful in his own right, but still fun enough to appreciate Paul’s tendency for the absurd. Patricia Hernandez, The Verge, "Meet the babysitter who helps Logan Paul stay out of trouble on YouTube," 3 Dec. 2018 This doesn't necessarily reflect a tendency for lower wages in poorer countries, either. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "Low pay, poor prospects, and psychological toll: The perils of microtask work," 23 Sep. 2018 In a business where the work day typically starts before dawn, Baffert’s tendency toward banker’s hours has been a source of resentment and envy. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "What makes Bob Baffert special? Keen eyes behind those sunglasses," 4 June 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about tendency

Statistics for tendency

Last Updated

8 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tendency

The first known use of tendency was in 1628

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


an act or instance of returning to life

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!