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 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 In response to Chapman’s case, Baker filed legislation Wednesday aimed at toughening penalties for child rape. Washington Post, "Convicted child rapist set for release facing new charges," 6 June 2018 At Chanel, for example, a pantsuit with a Sherlock Holmes–like cape top was given a twist via its fuchsia hue, while Tom Ford’s soft pink column dress was toughened up with chains. Laird Borrelli-persson, Vogue, "Fall’s 50 Shades . . . of Pink," 27 Mar. 2019 Roger tried again to take me to a local gym to toughen me up. Marc Myers, WSJ, "The Day Sugar Ray Leonard Nearly Drowned," 23 Oct. 2018 Gun legislation Lawmakers this year have tried to toughen the state’s firearm laws in response to mass shootings around the country and persistent gun violence in Chicago. Bill Lukitsch,, "More than 600 bills will land on Rauner’s desk as he seeks re-election," 10 June 2018 That includes toughening up the federal Toxic Substances Control Act and regulatory mandates for the EPA itself in 2016. Ellen Knickmeyer, The Seattle Times, "White House called toxins contamination ‘PR nightmare’," 14 Aug. 2018 A year ago, the Security Council voted to toughen sanctions, a result of months of intense U.S. diplomatic pressure to isolate North Korea for its nuclear tests. Jessica Donati, WSJ, "U.S., Russia Clash at U.N. as Lavrov Calls for Easing of North Korea Sanctions," 27 Sep. 2018 Robin Walker, the Worcester representative in Parliament, said lawmakers are considering toughening sentences for people convicted of any type of intentional assault with acid. Ryan Gaydos, Fox News, "Father of 3-year-old UK boy charged in apparent acid attack, due in court with 5 other suspects," 28 Aug. 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

16 Apr 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).


having no equal

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