\ 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
toughness noun

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 Already set on molding the offense around him, the coaching staff called him in their office for a tough, yet honest, conversation. Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press, "Why Michigan State football TE commit Kameron Allen trusts Mel Tucker with his future," 19 May 2020 Walking Into a Hurricane’ Many investors have long wagered that the student-housing sector was a safe bet even during tough economic periods. Keiko Morris And Melissa Korn, WSJ, "More Colleges Are Going Online This Fall. That’s Bad News for Student Housing.," 19 May 2020 My mom being a nurse anesthetist working on the front lines does make things a little tougher for my family. Courtney Christian,, "Utica High School senior Courtney Christian reaches for light in the midst of darkness," 17 May 2020 Serious outdoor enthusiasts will find many uses for this tough and sturdy cooler that holds up to 45 cans of beer with a 2:1 ratio of ice to can. Popular Science, "Great coolers that keep foods fresh and ready to eat," 15 May 2020 Our most beautiful ride also happened to be the toughest, a 32-mile round-trip out of the town of Akyaka involving a 3,145-foot elevation gain. Travel + Leisure, "How to Pull Off the Ultimate Turkey Trip by Bike and Boat," 14 May 2020 Still, being asked to be actor, director, set designer, and cameraman of our own production is a tough ask of even the most seasoned speaker. Anne Quito, Quartz at Work, "How to set the stage for a professional teleconference," 13 May 2020 In a news release put out yesterday, Airbnb announced its tough decision to cut 25 percent of its staff and move toward a more focused business strategy. Kelly Allen, House Beautiful, "Airbnb Announces It's Laying Off 25 Percent of Its Employees," 6 May 2020 The lemon juice was clutch in tenderizing the chicken and keeping it from getting tough when cooked, all the while bringing some brightness and zippy, zingy flavor to a dish typically associated with anything but. Molly Baz, Bon Appétit, "How Molly Baz Developed BA’s Best Chicken Parm—and Lived to Tell the Tale," 1 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Terry, a tough-talking yet tender-hearted dancer, dissects the production and its players in coarse but discerning terms. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "What to Read and Stream: The Remarkable Out-of-Print Book That Inspired “42nd Street”," 6 May 2020 That made getting information in the bond market tough even for traders. Stephen Gandel, CBS News, "1 Mike Bloomberg equals 660,000 American households, wealthwise," 20 Feb. 2020 The Sixth and Seventh Region boys champions both ended up in the bottom half of the bracket but could face tough early matchups. Jason Frakes, The Courier-Journal, "What to know after Tuesday's draws for the boys and girls Kentucky basketball Sweet 16s," 11 Feb. 2020 There were tough-sounding announcements on law and order, including longer sentences for people convicted of terrorist offenses and other serious crimes. Arkansas Online, "U.K.'s Johnson unveils legislative plan to end Brexit deadlock," 19 Dec. 2019 There were tough-sounding announcements on law and order, including longer sentences for people convicted of terrorist offenses and other serious crimes. Washington Post, "Queen lays out Johnson’s Brexit plans at Parliament opening," 19 Dec. 2019 Republicans liked Graddick, a tough-talking conservative, and Graddick aimed to make their support count. Mike Cason |, al, "Alabama Bicentennial: 200 years of political scandals and scrapes," 4 Dec. 2019 Mutzbauer works with a main line on his bosun’s chair and a backup line on his full-body harness, each rope tough enough to take up to 7,000 pounds of force. René A. Guzman,, "San Antonio window washer now high on god, not heroin," 3 Dec. 2019 But drama ensues when Lee is forced to look after tough-talking 10-year-old AJ (Izzy G.), who becomes a stowaway on the performer's RV. Stephen Daw, Billboard, "Meet Ruby Red, RuPaul's Newest Role, In Teaser for Netflix's 'AJ and the Queen'," 19 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 Temple toughs threatened Kinsolving’s bosses and the series was cut. Barton Swaim, WSJ, "Politics: The Cruel Sovereignty of Politics," 28 Dec. 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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 Most people will tough it out on the couch like the flu. Anne Saker,, "Coronavirus in Ohio: 9 steps to take if you might have COVID-19," 15 Mar. 2020 And what keeps the city ticking is its dedicated network of promoters and DJs, who tough out the laws to deliver a good time. Jack Tregoning, Billboard, "Where to Dance In: Sydney," 19 Feb. 2020 By Kevin Fisher-Paulson To a boy from Queens who toughed out 9/11 with the thick o’... Kevin Fisher-paulson,, "A special day for a couple like any other," 17 Sep. 2019 The second shot was nearly an exact repeat with the hole toughing the first, ditto on the third shot. Outdoor Life, "Hunting with the Lupo, Benelli’s New Bolt-Action Rifle," 21 Jan. 2020 Just toughing it out with over-the-counter cold-and-cough stuff. Bulletin Board, Twin Cities, "Sunday Bulletin Board: How is the beginning of a pregnancy like the end of a hockey game?," 15 Dec. 2019 Warner said about half the 1,000 residents of Ocracoke chose to tough it out. Ben Finley, The Denver Post, "Dorian’s floodwaters trap people in attics in North Carolina," 6 Sep. 2019 The English won their only previous two World Cup matchups, although both had to be toughed out. San Diego Union-Tribune, "England face do-or-die Pumas to reach RWC quarterfinals," 3 Oct. 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 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Tough.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for tough


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



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

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

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