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

Example Sentences

The economy has shown a general tendency toward inflation. a tendency to drop things
Recent Examples on the Web That high-intensity defense can sometimes come with a tendency for overzealousness, leading players to get in foul trouble. Jacob Steinberg, Baltimore Sun, 12 Jan. 2023 James and Henry definitely aren't impressed with their dad's tendency to play the antagonist. Emma Kershaw, Peoplemag, 9 Jan. 2023 Mobile home screens aren’t unlike the desktop screens of Windows and macOS computers, with a tendency to attract all kinds of digital detritus that builds up over time. David Nield, WIRED, 20 Nov. 2022 This was in line with a general tendency throughout the 1930s to seek to exempt Catholic Jews from the Race Laws. Tim Parks, The New York Review of Books, 9 Nov. 2022 Martínez is feistier as G, a fellow undocumented immigrant with a tendency to show up on B’s fire escape, seeking refuge from her abusive stepfather. Thomas Floyd, Washington Post, 28 Oct. 2022 These shifting attitudes fall in line with Gen Z’s tendency to set firmer boundaries during the job hunt as well as in the workplace. Angela Yang, NBC News, 17 Oct. 2022 Charlie Puth is a study in contradictions: a habitually private person with a tendency to overshare, sometimes to the point of TMI. Hanna Lustig, Glamour, 7 Oct. 2022 And even among the moderate middle, with the innate human tendency toward voyeurism and schadenfreude, the lesser angels of our nature win out over what should be intolerance for intolerance. Peggy Fletcher Stack, The Salt Lake Tribune, 25 Sep. 2022 See More

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.

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 4 Feb. 2023.

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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