tough·​en | \ ˈtə-fən How to pronounce toughen (audio) \
toughened; toughening\ ˈtə-​fə-​niŋ How to pronounce toughening (audio) , ˈtəf-​niŋ \

Definition of toughen

intransitive verb

: to become tough

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Synonyms & Antonyms for toughen


beef (up), fortify, harden, strengthen


debilitate, enervate, enfeeble, weaken

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Examples of toughen in a Sentence

The government is toughening antidrug laws. weight lifting will help toughen those flabby muscles of yours

Recent Examples on the Web

Sutton has proposed toughening lobbying and self-dealing laws, creating a stronger state ethics commission and working to make government documents such as emails, correspondence and calendars public records under South Dakota law. James Nord, The Seattle Times, "Democrat to debate with rare shot at governor’s race win," 22 Oct. 2018 Newsom pushed for a statewide initiative to toughen California gun laws and supported a measure to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Phil Willon,, "Meet John Cox and Gavin Newsom, the candidates for California governor," 10 June 2018 In Hungary, Orban put up two rows of razor-wire fences on the country’s southern borders and toughened immigration laws, drawing fierce criticism from EU officials. Washington Post, "Anti-immigrant party set to make gains in Slovenia vote," 1 June 2018 In 2014 Canada enacted a law to give customs officers more power to detain shipments and toughened sanctions against people who violate copyrights and trademarks. The Economist, "Canada coddles counterfeiters," 24 Feb. 2018 Interpol’s rules prohibit the use of police notices for political reasons, and the agency has toughened rules to enforce that. Angela Charlton, The Seattle Times, "Interpol’s flaws exposed in US-Russia fight over presidency," 21 Nov. 2018 Relatives of the two Boston firefighters who lost their lives fighting a Back Bay blaze in 2014 will testify on Beacon Hill Wednesday as officials consider toughening state law with the hopes of avoiding such a tragedy in the future. Danny Mcdonald,, "Relatives of two Boston firefighters killed in Back Bay blaze to testify on ‘hot work’ bill on Beacon Hill," 11 July 2018 Germany's governing parties have agreed to toughen rules on family reunions for some asylum-seekers, ruling out such reunions for former extremists who have given up their beliefs. Fox News, "German government to toughen migrant family reunion rules," 17 May 2018 The toughening regulatory environment, particularly for crossborder deals, could extend the slowdown in $10 billion-plus transactions, some bankers say. Ben Dummett, WSJ, "European M&A Loses Pace With Drop in Mega Deals," 30 Sep. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'toughen.' 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 toughen

1582, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

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Statistics for toughen

Last Updated

14 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for toughen

The first known use of toughen was in 1582

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More Definitions for toughen



English Language Learners Definition of toughen

: to make (something) stricter or to become stricter
: to make (someone) physically or emotionally stronger or to become physically or emotionally stronger


tough·​en | \ ˈtə-fən How to pronounce toughen (audio) \
toughened; toughening

Kids Definition of toughen

: to make or become tough Going barefoot toughened my feet.

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More from Merriam-Webster on toughen

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with toughen

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for toughen

Spanish Central: Translation of toughen

Nglish: Translation of toughen for Spanish Speakers

Comments on toughen

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highly pertinent or appropriate

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