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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Synonyms for tendency


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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 For example, visionary leaders have a tendency to go their own way, making decisions without considering the opinions of others or consequences for their organizations. Sherrie Suski, Forbes, "Inspirational Or Visionary: Which Leader Are You?," 1 Mar. 2021 The Daytona 500 has a tendency to be a crapshoot, often delivering an odd top-10 and occasionally ending up with a long-shot winner like McDowell. Mark Long, orlandosentinel.com, "After 2 new winners at Daytona, NASCAR Cup stars look for Miami victory," 28 Feb. 2021 With a tendency for health problems like diabetes, obesity and hypertension, Latinos are one of the groups at highest risk from COVID-19 in the U.S. Gisela Salomon, Star Tribune, "Latinos face barriers like fear, language in getting vaccine," 16 Feb. 2021 Kids have a tendency for liking gross things—take Pop Pops Snotz. Popular Mechanics Editors, Popular Mechanics, "25 Fun Toy Gifts for Curious Kids," 19 Nov. 2020 The theory found fertile ground for support among Germany’s Reichsbürger movement, which rejects the modern German state and has propensity for violence and a tendency for stockpiling weapons, according to German intelligence authorities. Washington Post, "Germany’s protests against coronavirus restrictions are becoming increasingly radical," 12 Nov. 2020 Francis has a tendency for making off-the-cuff public remarks, a trait that maddens both supporters and critics alike. Jason Horowitz, New York Times, "Pope Francis, in Shift for Church, Voices Support for Same-Sex Civil Unions," 21 Oct. 2020 That tendency for more-is-more, mood-lifting makeup has stayed with her to this day, thanks to a penchant for bright blush, baking, and a one-of-a-kind bright eye. Zoe Ruffner, Vogue, "Liza Koshy Shares Her Guide to Multi-Masking and Confidence-Boosting Eye Makeup," 21 Oct. 2020 That probably reflected the much greater tendency for women rather than men to take on longer hours, since fewer women occupied the uppermost income brackets. Timothy Noah, The New Republic, "The Good Life Was Stolen," 16 Sep. 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

3 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tendency.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tendency. Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.

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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 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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