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

The Siberian Times reported that Russia toughened its penalties for polar bear poaching last year. Washington Post, "A starving polar bear that was seen scavenging for food in a Russian industrial city has been captured," 20 June 2019 But others argue that many of the same results could be achieved by toughening up the existing regulatory system without the politically debilitating fight over imposing a broad new tax. Evan Halper,, "Biden proposes $1.7-trillion plan to combat climate change," 4 June 2019 Washington is also working with European allies such as French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the possibility of toughening an international nuclear agreement with Iran. Patricia Zengerle, Anchorage Daily News, "Pompeo becomes U.S. secretary of state as Iran, North Korea issues await," 26 Apr. 2018 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

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

25 Jun 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

What made you want to look up toughen? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to take the place or position of

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