\ 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 Birds are tough, ancestors of today's birds being survivors of an event that killed most other life on Earth, the fifth mass extinction 65 million years ago. Jim Williams, Star Tribune, "'Red List' report rates birds' endangerment status," 16 Feb. 2021 But for dancers used to learning choreography live with the visual cues of a studio mirror and the people around them, working virtually is tough. Samantha Nobles-block, San Francisco Chronicle, "'A lifesaving thing': Hip-hop dance groups find new purpose amid pandemic," 12 Feb. 2021 It's been tough, but like so many others across industries, these photographers have adapted. Olivia Harrison,, "Did The Pandemic Change Wedding Photography Forever?," 12 Feb. 2021 The family was poor and the neighborhood was tough. New York Times, "Leon Spinks, Boxer Who Took Ali’s Crown and Lost It, Dies at 67," 6 Feb. 2021 Lincoln said it’s tough to see other Oregonians who are older have to wait or not have access. oregonlive, "Oregon lacks targeted plan to ensure vulnerable seniors vaccinated amid expected ‘chaos,’ advocates say," 6 Feb. 2021 The 25-year-old Wood has been especially tough on the Spurs during his breakout season, totaling 51 points and 33 rebounds in the two-game set in San Antonio. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, "San Antonio Spurs' Jakob Poeltl more than a fill-in," 5 Feb. 2021 Similarly, both the dessert and the song may be worth consuming when times with your partner are tough and you’re fed up with the stubbornness and arguments with no clear end. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "First Spin: The Week's Best New Dance Tracks From San Holo, SG Lewis & Nile Rodgers, Black Coffee & More," 5 Feb. 2021 Athletes mask their pain everyday for years to be tough. Mike Freeman, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Super Bowl champion Martellus Bennett reveals dark but important thoughts about NFL life," 4 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb The company’s rise began with the arrival of tough-talking CEO Bob Greifeld in early 2003. Shawn Tully, Fortune, "Nasdaq at 50: The company behind the tech-heavy stock index reinvents itself as a financial-tech heavyweight," 8 Feb. 2021 Draymond Green has been the most visible mentor to Wiseman, sometimes tough-talking the rookie in full view of the TV cameras. Scott Ostler,, "James Wiseman caught eye of Warriors’ assistant two years ago," 24 Jan. 2021 Harris played tough but lost another one-on-one late in the fourth quarter. Ellis L. Williams, cleveland, "How can the Browns fix their offensive line before facing T.J. Watt and the Steelers? -- Film Review," 28 Dec. 2020 At the start of Harris’s prosecutorial career, in 1990, the American prison population had recently doubled, and tough-on-crime rhetoric was de rigueur, regardless of political party. Jeannie Suk Gersen, The New Yorker, "Kamala Harris and the Noble Path of the Prosecutor," 20 Nov. 2020 Rates began their sharp upward climb in the 1980s and 1990s, as Democrats and Republicans alike used thinly veiled racial rhetoric to push tough-on-crime policies. Robin Mcdowell, Star Tribune, "Report: 'Alarming' rates of police and prosecutor misconduct," 15 Sep. 2020 Like Ken Wu, Fred Chang of Rosemead supports Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party and approves of Trump’s tough-on-China approach. Stephanie Lai, Los Angeles Times, "Some Taiwanese immigrants fear Biden will ‘Make China Great Again.’ Can he win them over?," 1 Dec. 2020 But of the two, Lacey, the first woman and first African American to head the district attorney’s office, is considered the more traditional tough-on-crime prosecutor and has remained a favorite of law enforcement. Times Staff, Los Angeles Times, "From George Gascón to jail diversion, criminal justice reform got a big boost in California," 4 Nov. 2020 Such exceptions may enable the preservation of tough-on-crime sentiment. Jeannie Suk Gersen, The New Yorker, "Kamala Harris and the Noble Path of the Prosecutor," 20 Nov. 2020 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 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 Most people will tough it out on the couch like the flu. Anne Saker, USA TODAY, "Have a dry cough or a sore throat? 9 steps to take if you might have coronavirus," 16 Mar. 2020 Edelman toughs it out Julian Edelman went through a rigorous pregame workout after entering the game with injuries to his shoulder and knee., "You're using a browser set to private or incognito mode.," 16 Dec. 2019

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

23 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tough.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 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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