ten·​den·​cy ˈten-dən(t)-sē How to pronounce tendency (audio)
plural tendencies
: a proneness to a particular kind of thought or action
: direction or approach toward a place, object, effect, or limit
: the purposeful trend of something written or said : aim
: deliberate but indirect advocacy
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 Meanwhile, there’s a growing tendency in emergency medicine toward quickly ruling out the big, scary conditions such as ischemic heart disease, pulmonary embolism, and deep vein thrombosis, among others. Eva Roytburg, Fortune, 7 June 2024 We’re used to distrusting ads because of their tendency to deceive. Peter C. Baker, New York Times, 6 June 2024 For almost all of human history, heat waves have been driven by natural variability — or the tendency of weather patterns to veer occasionally from their typical patterns. Hayley Smith, Los Angeles Times, 2 June 2024 Contrary to popular myth, the tendency to ignore risks is more common in corporate cultures than among VCs. Ilya Strebulaev and Alex Dang, TIME, 22 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for tendency 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'tendency.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1628, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

Time Traveler
The first known use of tendency was in 1628

Dictionary Entries Near tendency

Cite this Entry

“Tendency.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tendency. Accessed 20 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


ten·​den·​cy ˈten-dən-sē How to pronounce tendency (audio)
plural tendencies
: a direction or approach toward a place, object, result, or limit
: a leaning toward a particular kind of thought or action

More from Merriam-Webster on tendency

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