\ 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
toughness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for tough

Synonyms: Adjective

chewy, leathery

Synonyms: Noun

bully, gangbanger, gangsta, gangster, goon, gorilla, hood, hoodlum, hooligan, mobster, mug, plug-ugly, punk, roughneck, rowdy, ruffian, thug, toughie (also toughy), yob [British], yobbo [British]

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


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.


He talks tough but he's not really dangerous.


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


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

This is a tough one, because there are really two stories at play here. Andrew Sharp,, "NBA Free Agency Report Card: Grading the Nets, Knicks, 76ers and More from a Crazy Day 1," 1 July 2019 Letting go is tough, especially when your kid has autism. Julie M. Green, Washington Post, "The day my autistic son wandered from school," 1 July 2019 That next round would be tough for Pier 1 to handle, given its current challenges. Maria Halkias, Dallas News, "Pier 1 Imports gets buried in a crowded home furnishings market," 30 June 2019 Hopper needs to be tough and capable, but also wry and annoyed by things like bureaucracy or privilege. Nathan Mattise, Ars Technica, "Darkness on the Edge of Town," 29 June 2019 Her approach to life is distinctive: brisk, stylish, tough, compassionate. Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker, "E. Jean Carroll’s Accusation Against Donald Trump, and the Raising, and Lowering, of the Bar," 25 June 2019 On the mountain side, where Maxxis pretty much rules, there’s a tread pattern and rubber durometer for everyone, casings are tougher than ever, and tire weights are coming down. Aaron Gulley, Outside Online, "What We Learned From Our 2019 Bike Test," 25 June 2019 An attempt by Mr Duque’s government to subject FARC commanders to tougher terms by partially rewriting the peace agreement was rejected last month by congress and the constitutional court. The Economist, "Can Colombia’s President Iván Duque find his feet?," 22 June 2019 Respect social dynamics Building appropriate, personalized tone into AI is a tough one to get right. Amy Lokey, Quartz at Work, "How to design AI tools for the workplace, according to Google," 21 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

Pérez Molina was promptly caught up in a massive corruption case built by Velásquez and Thelma Aldana, the country’s tough-talking attorney general. Washington Post, "How U.S. apathy helped kill a pioneering anticorruption campaign in Guatemala," 14 June 2019 The Eagles, who Patterson Mill played tough all three times, went on to win three more games and a third straight Class 1A state championship. Randy Mcroberts,, "Just a freshman, Madison Knight a force on diamond," 11 June 2019 Their stories’ plots differed, but their protagonists were mostly the same: tough-talking, straight-shooting private detectives. Susanna Lee, Quartz, "How the ‘good guy with a gun’ became a deadly American fantasy," 7 June 2019 Yes, China is acting tough in one sense, quickly imposing tariffs in retaliation for those enacted by the Trump administration. Donald L. Luskin, WSJ, "China Is Losing the Trade War With Trump," 27 July 2018 The Classic Dish Coq Au Vin, in which a whole tough older bird —usually a rooster — is cooked in wine, must be the ancestor to this lesser-known dish, in which just the meaty legs of a sturdy hen are cooked in vinegar. Gabrielle Hamilton, House Beautiful, "Gabrielle Hamilton's Braised Chicken Legs with Shallots and Vinegar," 22 Feb. 2013 That might explain why some people who love Trump’s tough-talking style are angry over the comments Waters made at a campaign rally last week. Dahleen Glanton,, "Maxine Waters shows that gutsiness is in the eye of the beholder," 28 June 2018 Might find things tough now the element of surprise is gone. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "World Cup: Ranking all 32 teams, from hopeless to hopefuls," 22 May 2018 Here is a look at some of those potential regional final matchups: Mukwonago at Middleton: Mukwonago finished sixth in the rugged Classic 8 but played a number of top teams tough. Mark Stewart, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee-area girls soccer rankings, weekly honors," 28 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Temple toughs threatened Kinsolving’s bosses and the series was cut. Barton Swaim, WSJ, "Politics: The Cruel Sovereignty of Politics," 28 Dec. 2018 Gebhardt and his brother-in-law were laborers at a pulp mill, but had reputations as toughs with nasty, racist streaks — and rap sheets: Gebhardt had been charged with aggravated assault several times and had spent time in a Georgia penitentiary. Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Washington Post, "A black man was murdered for dating a white woman. His killer was sentenced — 35 years later.," 27 June 2018 An immaculate white convertible — the BMW of its day — and well out of the reach of a pack of teenage Orange toughs. Longreads, "The Cold War and its Fallout," 16 June 2018 Henri Jokihajru can't handle a tough back pass at the Brandon blue line, leading to a 2 on 1 and a Ty Lewis goal. 3-1 Brendan De Jong with the pass of his life at center ice, sending Joachim Blichfeld in for a breakaway goal. Dylan Bumbarger,, "Winterhawks 4, Wheat Kings 3," 22 Jan. 2018 Martinez-Valdez, prosecutors say, was a street tough who earned a lucrative living by stepping into the sophisticated economic crime. David Ovalle, miamiherald, "Illegal 'moving fire bombs' drive Miami black market for gas | Miami Herald," 12 Jan. 2018 Buddhist toughs threatened taxi drivers and merchants from Kargil, telling them they weren’t allowed to work in Leh. Suhasini Raj And Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times, "On the Run for Love: Couple Bridges a Buddhist-Muslim Divide," 12 Oct. 2017 These teams — there are precisely two in the series, vaguely rivalrous, unequally enlightened — are the tough who get going when the going gets too tough for the ordinary weapons and tactics of ordinary police officers. Robert Lloyd,, "CBS's flashy, action-packed 'S.W.A.T.' reboot will no doubt serve as comfort food to some viewers," 2 Nov. 2017 Cody Krause did the tough running up the middle by gaining 78 yards on 22 carries, including a 6-yard touchdown. Andrew Gruman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Five Takeaways: Muskego 28, Catholic Memorial 6," 8 Sep. 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Total Expert Score: 80/100 | Consumer Score: 76% give it 4 stars or higher This little compact can tough it out on any outdoor adventure and in any weather conditions. Paige Szmodis, Popular Mechanics, "The 10 Best Compact Digital Cameras for Capturing Your Adventures," 17 Apr. 2019 The more both sides harden their resolve to tough it out, the greater the pressure on companies to hedge their bets on China and move elsewhere. Gwynn Guilford, Quartz, "The trade war is already pushing businesses out of China—and it could be permanent," 14 June 2019 This little compact can tough it out on any outdoor adventure and in any weather conditions. Paige Szmodis, Popular Mechanics, "The 10 Best Compact Digital Cameras for Capturing Your Adventures," 17 Apr. 2019 The state began toughing its administrative rules for cash assistance after then-Republican Gov. Sam Brownback took office in 2011. John Hanna, The Seattle Times, "New Kansas governor wants to roll back cash assistance rules," 4 Dec. 2018 Unfortunately, the people who tough it out and open up a gallery are the true believers. Mark Kurlyandchik, Detroit Free Press, "Anthony Bourdain dishes on Trump, Detroit, terrible food in 2016," 8 June 2018 Residents toughing it out in the valleys around Los Angeles and in the inland region to the east faced the possibility of unhealthy air quality. CBS News, "Southern California heat wave breaks records," 6 July 2018 Even starting pitcher Austin Bibens-Dirkx, who was tagged with five runs on six hits, including two home runs in the first three innings, toughed it out to go six and keep the Rangers within 5-2. Stefan Stevenson, star-telegram, "Astros hold on against Rangers but Shin-Soo Choo stretches on-base streak to 43 games," 3 July 2018 Read: Incarcerated opioid addicts often have to tough out withdrawal. Joel Shannon, USA TODAY, "Near a Nebraska town, cops seize enough opioids to kill over 26 million," 26 May 2018

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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Statistics for tough

Last Updated

5 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for tough

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

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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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tough

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tough

Spanish Central: Translation of tough

Nglish: Translation of tough for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tough for Arabic Speakers

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