tough

adjective
\ 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

tough

adverb

Definition of tough (Entry 2 of 4)

: in a tough manner (see tough entry 1) talking tough

tough

noun

Definition of tough (Entry 3 of 4)

: a tough and violent person : rowdy

tough

verb
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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from tough

Adjective

toughly adverb
toughness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for tough

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Adjective

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for tough

Adjective

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 But with that announcement, the union been talking tough about GM for almost a year. Chris Isidore, CNN, "The GM strike was inevitable. How it will end isn't so clear," 17 Sep. 2019 Mobile home owners facing rent hikes or otherwise caught in a tough position are urged to read the rent notices carefully, familiarize themselves with the law and consider their options. Anchorage Daily News, "Precarious spot for mobile home owners as investors swoop in," 16 Sep. 2019 Entering Saturday, ESPN’s Football Power Index ranked the Knights’ remaining schedule the 76th toughest in the nation. C.j. Doon, baltimoresun.com, "College football overreaction index, Week 3: Same old Maryland?; ACC is at the bottom of the Power 5," 16 Sep. 2019 Greg Moore and Michelle Gardner explain why this could be a tough game. Michelle Gardner, azcentral, "ASU looks to ride momentum, freshmen into Pac-12 opener vs. Colorado," 16 Sep. 2019 His vocals occasionally disappear in the sound mix and don’t reach the heights of the other performers, but this is tough music — hard-edged and jangling at times. Matthew J. Palm, orlandosentinel.com, "CFCArts opens season with moving, well-cast ‘Next to Normal’ | Review," 16 Sep. 2019 The administration said many tough choices were made last spring when the governor and legislature approved a new, two-year state budget. Keith M. Phaneuf, courant.com, "Democrats say prepared foods tax is being applied broader than lawmakers intended," 16 Sep. 2019 There’s a tough-guy Ukrainian adoptee named Mischa (Michael Hanna) and Ricky (Jordan M. Leggett) a sensitive-souled boy with a life-threatening disease. Dominic P. Papatola, Twin Cities, "Theater review: ‘Ride the Cyclone’ is loopy, thoughtful, thoroughly enjoyable," 15 Sep. 2019 Jennifer Lopez steals the show with a nuanced stunner of a turn as the leader of the pack, a tough cookie who keeps it light. Thr Staff, The Hollywood Reporter, "Hollywood Reporter Critics' 20 Favorite Films From the Fall Festivals," 15 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Played with winning, tough-talking charisma by Spencer, Tracy berates Vic for his endless delays and detours, at one point telephoning his employer, who is already barking orders at him over the radio. Justin Chang, chicagotribune.com, "‘Give Me Liberty’ review: A medical transport van welcomes all," 12 Sep. 2019 Played with winning, tough-talking charisma by Spencer, Tracy berates Vic for his endless delays and detours, at one point telephoning his employer, who is already barking orders at him over the radio. Justin Chang, chicagotribune.com, "‘Give Me Liberty’ review: A medical transport van welcomes all," 12 Sep. 2019 Most of Hendricks’ accusers are from the lower rungs of the village’s economic ladder, tough-talking teenagers with spiked hair and a love for noisy motorbikes. Washington Post, "Ex-clergyman says US priest in Philippines a known pedophile," 10 Sep. 2019 Played with winning, tough-talking charisma by Spencer, Tracy berates Vic for his endless delays and detours, at one point telephoning his employer, who is already barking orders at him over the radio. Los Angeles Times, "Review: ‘Give Me Liberty’ is a brilliant madcap farce on wheels," 29 Aug. 2019 But times are incredibly tough now in ways that aren’t just financial. NBC News, "Florida firefighters says firehouse destroyed by Hurricane Michael now a life or death issue," 23 Aug. 2019 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, baltimoresun.com, "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 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 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, OregonLive.com, "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, latimes.com, "CBS's flashy, action-packed 'S.W.A.T.' reboot will no doubt serve as comfort food to some viewers," 2 Nov. 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Mensah evaded opposing tacklers, broke big plays (including a 45-yard gain) and toughed out short-yardage situations. Alex Putterman, courant.com, "Grading UConn’s players, units after 56-35 win over UMass," 27 Oct. 2019 Dead serious, caught a migraine, but just had to tough it out. Edgar Thompson, orlandosentinel.com, "No. 7 Gators prepare for hostile visit to No. 5 LSU’s Death Valley Saturday night," 7 Oct. 2019 Total Expert Score: 80/100 This little compact can tough it out on any outdoor adventure and in any weather conditions. Daisy Hernandez, Popular Mechanics, "How to See the Northern Lights This Weekend," 30 Aug. 2019 Bessemer Academy is no stranger to tough early-season football games. Dennis Victory, al, "Bessemer Academy starts 2019 Alabama HS football season with tough opponent," 15 Aug. 2019 While some in this town have gotten fed up and left — getting their hands on permits to fish in other districts such as Kodiak and Sand Point — the Allens are part of a small group that has chosen to tough it out and stay put. Alex Hager, Anchorage Daily News, "Chignik Bay is ‘hanging by a thread’ after a second year of scant fishing," 3 Aug. 2019 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

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.

See More

First Known Use of tough

Adjective

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4a

Adverb

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Noun

1801, in the meaning defined above

Verb

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

Keep scrolling for more

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for tough

tough

adjective
How to pronounce tough (audio)

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

tough

adverb

English Language Learners Definition of tough (Entry 2 of 3)

: in a way that shows that you are strong or tough

tough

noun

English Language Learners Definition of tough (Entry 3 of 3)

informal + old-fashioned : a tough and violent person

tough

adjective
\ 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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on tough

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tough

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tough

Spanish Central: Translation of tough

Nglish: Translation of tough for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tough for Arabic Speakers

Comments on tough

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

WORD OF THE DAY

something of little or no value

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Pass the Little Ribbons: A Pasta Word Quiz

  • rotelle pasta
  • Match the pasta to its meaning in English: Rotelle
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!