\ ˈtəf How to pronounce tough (audio) \
tougher; toughest

Definition of tough

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1 : difficult to accomplish, resolve, endure, or deal with a tough question tough luck
2 : capable of enduring strain, hardship, or severe labor tough soldiers
3 : unruly, rowdyish started hanging out with the tough kids
4a : strong or firm in texture but flexible and not brittle
b : not easily chewed tough meat
5 : characterized by severity or uncompromising determination tough laws tough discipline — see also get tough on
6 : very hard to influence : stubborn a tough negotiator
7 : stubbornly fought a tough contest
8 : marked by absence of softness or sentimentality a tough critic



Definition of tough (Entry 2 of 4)

: in a tough manner (see tough entry 1) talking tough



Definition of tough (Entry 3 of 4)

: a tough and violent person : rowdy


toughed; toughing; toughs

Definition of tough (Entry 4 of 4)

transitive verb

: to bear unflinchingly : endure usually used with out especially in the phrase tough it out

Other Words from tough


toughly adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for tough

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Adjective

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Choose the Right Synonym for tough


strong, stout, sturdy, stalwart, tough, tenacious mean showing power to resist or to endure. strong may imply power derived from muscular vigor, large size, structural soundness, intellectual or spiritual resources. strong arms the defense has a strong case stout suggests an ability to endure stress, pain, or hard use without giving way. stout hiking boots sturdy implies strength derived from vigorous growth, determination of spirit, solidity of construction. a sturdy table people of sturdy independence stalwart suggests an unshakable dependability. stalwart environmentalists tough implies great firmness and resiliency. a tough political opponent tenacious suggests strength in seizing, retaining, clinging to, or holding together. tenacious farmers clinging to an age-old way of life

Examples of tough in a Sentence

Adjective I have a tough constitution, and my profession taught me how to compete against long odds and big obstacles. — Lance Armstrong, It's Not About The Bike, (2000) 2001 … Pelletreau had firsthand experience in dealing with Israelis as well as with Arabs and had a reputation for being bold, analytical, and tough as nails. — Robert D. Kaplan, The Arabists, 1993 … this wiry, tough, frenetic Algerian with the beneficent smile, who could vault over the bar and stiff-arm a drunk out into the night in less time than it takes to say Edgar Poe, and return, bland as butter, to take up where he left off … — William Styron, "The Paris Review," August 1953, in William Styron, This Quiet Dust And Other Writings(1953) 1982 He had on the other hand to preserve his own reputation as a tough D.A. who dealt handily with the criminal classes. — E. L. Doctorow, Ragtime, (1974) 1975 She had a tough time in college. Are you tough enough for the job? He's been hanging around with a bunch of tough guys. The rug is made of tough material. Adverb He talks tough but he's not really dangerous. Noun One night, after antagonizing a gang of older toughs, he had his face smashed in with a hockey stick. — John Harris, Rolling Stone, 14 Nov. 2002 They weren't strong enough to fight Sankoh and his hopped-up young toughs, who number in the thousands. — Tom Masland et al., Newsweek, 15 May 2000 The subways provided fine service, except that lately there had been a problem. Packs of young toughs had taken to roaming the cars. — Tom Wolf, Harper's, November 1989 didn't want her son hanging out with the neighborhood toughs Verb Summer in New York is coasting the dairy aisle at Safeway.  … It's finding the spot in a subway car where the vent blows strongest and staying there past your stop, toughing it out when the "excuse me, ladies and gentlemen" hard-luck stories blow through. — Guy Trebay, Village Voice, 30 July 1991 … they were toughing it out with the help of the greatest ally a macho young cop ever had, booze. — Joseph Wambaugh, Lines and Shadows, 1984 See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Leading by example and when things are tough, moving forward. Charlie Goldsmith, The Enquirer, 13 May 2022 That job was tough, said Jason Butler, the county’s director of corrections. Hannah Knowles, Washington Post, 12 May 2022 Staying relevant can be tough in a vacation hotspot — namely in Aspen, Colorado, where every year brings new designer ski collaborations; buzzy restaurant, bar, and boutique openings; and the chicest of crowds from coast to coast. Nina Ruggiero, Travel + Leisure, 12 May 2022 In all fairness, a Paxlovid–long-COVID trial would be tough. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 10 May 2022 But becoming a legitimate NBA Finals contender again is tough. Gary Washburn,, 7 May 2022 However, because potency rates are measured per bottle rather than per milliliter, determining an effective dose may be tough. The Salt Lake Tribune, 6 May 2022 Because people buy and sell stocks based on emotional reasons and not fundamental ones, buying in when the outlook is rosy (and valuations are highest) and selling out when times are tough (and valuations are lowest). Jonathan Boyar, Forbes, 6 May 2022 Making money off food delivery has been tough despite record sales. Preetika Rana, WSJ, 5 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Whoever wins will replace President Duterte, the tough-talking leader known internationally for cracking down on civil society and the media, and a bloody war on drugs that has claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people, according to police. Helen Regan And Yasmin Coles, CNN, 9 May 2022 Supporters view him as a tough-talking, no-nonsense leader. Feliz Solomon, WSJ, 6 May 2022 The good: Fitzgerald has the Wildcats playing tough, sound football year in and year out and the result has been West Division titles twice in the last three seasons. Jeff Potrykus, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 30 Aug. 2021 Plus, her acting skills, always tremendous in brassy tough-talking mode, only add nuance as Nadia loses control over her place in time and her conviction that her family’s unfinished business is, in fact, finishable. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 13 Apr. 2022 Jones cited laws like proposition 57 for letting violent offenders out of prison, arguing that Americans now have a collective amnesia about the tough-on-crime policies that reduced crime in the past few decades. Paul Best, Fox News, 11 Apr. 2022 Battle for Everest, Fred Armisen serves as their director, and Kate McKinnon Skypes into the film as a tough-talking film exec; Benedict Cumberbatch (with or without his permission) even appears as a deep fake. Daniel Kreps, Rolling Stone, 4 Mar. 2022 Unlike the old-school prosecutors who traditionally won office by promising tough-on-crime policies that stressed convictions and incarceration, the new reformers campaign on both public safety and reducing mass incarceration. Clarence Page,, 10 Dec. 2021 Newsom has long advocated for reducing recidivism through educational opportunities and mental health programs instead of enacting new tough-on-crime laws that have historically swelled California’s prison population. Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times, 17 Dec. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Florida State has had a tough on the defensive front all season, but against Miami last week and Boston College, the Seminoles have taken it to a new level. Matt Murschel,, 21 Nov. 2021 Plus, Arizona and Seattle always seem to play each other tough. Greg Moore, The Arizona Republic, 21 Nov. 2021 Environmental dynamics were not supportive of much intensification — mainly due to dry air nearby — but weak upper-level winds could allow for a tough of strengthening before landfall in Cuba during the late morning or afternoon hours Monday., 6 July 2021 Southside coach Natalie Throneberry said Fayetteville's attack made a tough on the Mavericks' blockers. Paul Boyd, Arkansas Online, 11 Sep. 2020 The Portland distance star came back in a big way from a tough last 16 months by winning Saturday’s men’s race at the U.S. Olympic marathon trials. oregonlive, 2 Mar. 2020 Shots of Phoenix running from street toughs in his clown outfit are intercut with his social worker breaking up with him. Dan Brooks, New York Times, 2 Oct. 2019 At one point, toughs from a drug-trafficking gang called Loyal To Familia arrived on motorbikes looking for members of Brothas, a rival group. The Economist, 28 Nov. 2019 Overcharging the group seemed like a political move to boost his reelection as a tough on crime prosecutor. Dahleen Glanton,, 7 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb But now is not the time to silently tough it out, or to go dark. Outside Online, 9 Apr. 2020 En route to exploring his options, O’Neal opted to tough it out at A&M. Brent Zwerneman, San Antonio Express-News, 23 Nov. 2021 While some of the hype may die down as companies grapple with the nitty-gritty of marrying reality with the digital, those companies that tough it out and design the underpinnings of the metaverse stand to gain the most. - Make Genius Money Moves, Forbes, 5 Nov. 2021 When logistical nightmares collide with overwhelming emotions, don't try to tough it out alone. Holly Yan, CNN, 1 Sep. 2021 And while many parents assume that middle school is a rite of passage that kids need to stoically tough out, the opposite could not be more true. Sarah Molano, CNN, 10 Aug. 2021 The initiative failed, Coaxum says, because SF Global didn’t have the funding to tough out the lengthy municipal process. Kristin Stoller, Forbes, 18 June 2021 For many businesses there has been no real option but to tough it out until lockdowns ease, which in Germany may not be until the fall. New York Times, 7 May 2021 The national news of the day was indeed tragic, and infuriating, but the other 779 major leaguers somehow managed to tough it out. Washington Post, 6 May 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tough.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of tough


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4a


14th century, in the meaning defined above


1801, in the meaning defined above


1830, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tough

Adjective, Adverb, Noun, and Verb

Middle English, from Old English tōh; akin to Old High German zāhi tough

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Time Traveler for tough

Time Traveler

The first known use of tough was before the 12th century

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Dictionary Entries Near tough



tough check

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Statistics for tough

Last Updated

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Tough.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for tough


\ ˈtəf How to pronounce tough (audio) \
tougher; toughest

Kids Definition of tough

1 : strong or firm but flexible and not brittle tough fibers tough leather
2 : not easily chewed tough meat
3 : physically or emotionally strong enough to put up with strain or hardship
4 : very strict, firm, or determined a tough coach tough rules
5 : very difficult to do or deal with We've had some tough times. The math test was tough.
6 : lawless sense 2 a tough neighborhood

Other Words from tough

toughness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on tough

Nglish: Translation of tough for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tough for Arabic Speakers


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