\ ˈtəf How to pronounce tough (audio) \

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 a tough gang
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
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

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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
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Play was halted for 78 minutes by a fast-moving line of thunderstorms, transforming a course that was playing as tough as anybody could remember before getting its first dousing of the week. Paul Newberry, ajc, "On a suddenly soggy day at Augusta, some guys fail to adjust," 11 Apr. 2021 The entire ordeal was tough on all of them, Highsmith said. Steve Lopez Columnist, Los Angeles Times, "Column: A doctor left her family for a year to protect them from COVID-19. Now, she’s back home," 10 Apr. 2021 And this means upgraders have a tough decision to make. Gordon Kelly, Forbes, "New Apple Leak Reveals iPhone 13 Release Shock," 7 Apr. 2021 Nelson lost a tough 4-3 decision to Dom Bradley in his opening match Friday, spoiling any chance of a matchup against Steveson. Rachel Blount, Star Tribune, "Minnesotans stumble in Greco-Roman Olympic wrestling trials," 3 Apr. 2021 The rental income on which the club depended to maintain the Livingston Street building disappeared during the pandemic and members recently made the tough decision to sell their home of 49 years. Joy Wallace Dickinson,, "Sorosis of Orlando club closes chapter, leaves proud legacy for women," 28 Mar. 2021 But as cases only worsened and concerns about safety heightened, the athletic director — Hurd’s grandmother — made the tough decision to call the season off. Washington Post, "He was a promising college athlete raised ‘old school.’ A random shooting stole his future.," 26 Mar. 2021 Reporters aren’t in the practice, obviously, of being particularly tough on President Biden. The Editors, National Review, "Biden’s Woeful Press Conference," 25 Mar. 2021 Gardening is tough on your hands, which is where these Showa Atlas gloves come in handy. Camryn Rabideau, USA TODAY, "16 things to get your lawn and garden in shape this spring," 25 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Marco Verratti has contracted the coronavirus for the third time and the tough-tackling Leandro Paredes is suspended for the first leg. Tim Bielik, cleveland, "Bayern Munich vs. Paris Saint-Germain free live stream (4/7/21): How to watch, TV | UEFA Champions League quarterfinals first leg," 7 Apr. 2021 His Cincinnati teams played with a similar grit in his 13 seasons there, but now his out-tough-your-opponent mantra is being streamlined through a blue-blood program that has 11 national championships hanging in the rafters. Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Final Four heartbreak aside, UCLA men's basketball is here to stay in the national equation under Mick Cronin," 4 Apr. 2021 Boudin has emerged as a national figure in a movement to elect progressive prosecutors, with voters increasingly rejecting the tough-on-crime criminal justice system that fed into to overflowing jail and prison populations. Megan Cassidy, San Francisco Chronicle, "Biggest donor to Chesa Boudin recall campaign is a tech investor and former PayPal exec," 25 Mar. 2021 The race is poised to test the climate for justice reform in a county that has historically favored tough-on-crime policies. Julia Wick, Los Angeles Times, "Essential California: Why the vaccine honor system matters," 17 Mar. 2021 As tough-on-crime states struggled with ballooning prison budgets, private facilities operated by the Corrections Corporation of America offered an immediate solution. Washington Post, "Communities and companies made money off George Floyd’s imprisonment. Inside, Floyd withered.," 19 Oct. 2020 Guy Pearce plays Father Peter Costello, a tough-talking exorcist who had a traumatic encounter with a demon in his early years and has since developed a reputation as a cynical iconoclast. Noel Murray, Los Angeles Times, "Review: Exorcism thriller ‘The Seventh Day’ is too ponderous to raise a decent scare," 25 Mar. 2021 The cast that Ferrante put on the floor reacted to a tough-hitting Raiders squad, which is now 2-2 on the season. Mike Morea,, "Reservoir volleyball defeats Atholton for fourth straight sweep," 15 Mar. 2021 The tough-talking Duterte has said wealthy Western countries have cornered massive doses for their citizens, leaving poorer nations scrambling for the rest. Jim Gomez, Star Tribune, "Philippines receives COVID-19 vaccine after delays," 28 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Southside coach Natalie Throneberry said Fayetteville's attack made a tough on the Mavericks' blockers. Paul Boyd, Arkansas Online, "Fayetteville sweeps Fort Smith Southside, stays unbeaten," 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, "UO Ducks need to maximize their points in the men’s distances at the NCAA indoor: Oregon track & field rundown," 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, "What’s the Panic Over ‘Joker’ Really About?," 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, "Denmark wants to break up ethnic enclaves. What is wrong with them?," 28 Nov. 2019 Overcharging the group seemed like a political move to boost his reelection as a tough on crime prosecutor. Dahleen Glanton,, "Column: A year in prison isn’t the second chance Diamond Davis was looking for, but she still has a chance to turn her life around.," 7 Nov. 2019 The fish has a tough, albeit flexible, inner layer bound by collagen to mineralize the outer layer of scales. Fox News, "Amazon fish's 'bulletproof vest' is piranha protection," 18 Oct. 2019 Mushroom Confit Makes about 6 cups Toss together in a colander placed in the sink or over a bowl: 2 pounds mushrooms, larger ones quartered, any tough stems removed 1 tablespoon salt Let sit for 1 hour. CBS News, "Recipe from "Joy of Cooking": Mushroom Confit," 7 Nov. 2019 The two drugged toughs get off with a warning and some pummeling. Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Mayor of Rione Sanita' ('Il sindaco di Rione Sanita'): Film Review | Venice 2019," 30 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Williams said his mother Teresa Johnson — an engineer who has worked for NASA for 30 years — grew up telling him to tough out illnesses., "Danny Ainge says ‘at least a couple’ Celtics players won’t want the COVID-19 vaccine," 2 Apr. 2021 Raised to tough it out and proudly marking more than three decades since recovering from alcohol abuse, Cartwright has been wary of medication. Sasha Pezenik, ABC News, "FDA panel to consider osteoarthritis drug tanezumab," 25 Mar. 2021 Instead of the extremes of coddling or leaving kids to tough it out alone, apprenticeship parents continually balance challenge and support for kids. Washington Post, "Twitter’s ‘bean dad’ went viral for his tough approach. There’s a better way to raise capable kids.," 5 Jan. 2021 My style was to tough it out, which earned me great praise for strength, dignity, blah blah blah. Washington Post, "Carolyn Hax: When turning 30 becomes an existential crisis," 1 Jan. 2021 Michigan football's quarterback suffered an early right shoulder injury in Saturday's 27-17 loss to Penn State, tried to tough his way through the rest of the game and was eventually pulled from the game during the Wolverines' final possession. Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan football QB Cade McNamara's starting debut for doesn't go according to plan," 29 Nov. 2020 And: Kids who tough it out and go this year will enter the job market (or the graduate-school admissions game) with an enormous numbers advantage. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "The Capital Letter: Week of August 17," 21 Aug. 2020 That means that kids who tough it out and go this year will enter the job market (or the graduate-school admissions game) with an enormous numbers advantage. Kevin A. Hassett, National Review, "Scrap the Gap-Year Plans," 20 Aug. 2020 Canada geese are notorious for tolerating harsh conditions, and mallards will also tough it out in the cold. Joe Genzel, Outdoor Life, "How to Hunt Ducks and Geese," 26 June 2020

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.

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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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Statistics for tough

Last Updated

12 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tough.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for tough



English Language Learners Definition of tough

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: very difficult to do or deal with
: physically and emotionally strong : able to do hard work, to deal with harsh conditions, etc.
: physically strong and violent



English Language Learners Definition of tough (Entry 2 of 3)

: in a way that shows that you are strong or tough



English Language Learners Definition of tough (Entry 3 of 3)

informal + old-fashioned : a tough and violent person


\ 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

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More from Merriam-Webster on tough

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tough

Nglish: Translation of tough for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tough for Arabic Speakers

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