tough·​ness | \ ˈtəf-nəs How to pronounce toughness (audio) \

Definition of toughness

: the quality or state of being tough: such as
a : the quality of being strong and not easily broken, torn, etc. This combination of strength and ductility makes spider silk extremely tough, matching the toughness of state-of-the-art carbon fibers such as Kevlar.MIT Technology Review also : the quality of being difficult to cut or chew … the extreme toughness of the beef … , which rendered it quite unfit … for any human consumption. — Charles Dickens
b : physical or emotional strength that allows someone to endure strain or hardship Henin-Hardenne's unshakable mental toughness—she says one of her great joys in life is staving off a break point in a tight match—makes her all the more formidable.— L. Jon Wertheim
c : the quality of being severe or uncompromising the toughness of the new sentencing guidelines his toughness as a negotiator The Minnesota senator referenced the story during her campaign to showcase her toughness on crime.— Summer Concepcion and Matt Shuham Besides teaching us how to hit with pads [in football], [Sister] Paulinus instructed us in English, history, and the love of God, with a distinctive combination of toughness and good humor.— Luke Timothy Johnson
d : the quality of being difficult to accomplish, resolve, endure, or deal with the toughness of life in prison the toughness of these decisions After an appearance on British television, he is almost giddy at the toughness of the questions he faced.— A. O. Scott Just spritz on some Dawn Power Dissolver, wait 15 to 30 minutes depending on the toughness of the job, wipe with a sponge, and rinse.Cook's Illustrated

First Known Use of toughness

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for toughness

tough entry 1 + -ness

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About toughness

Time Traveler for toughness

Time Traveler

The first known use of toughness was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near toughness



tough pitch

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for toughness

Cite this Entry

“Toughness.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon


Test Your Vocabulary

Dog Words Quiz

  • shiba puppy more or less demanding cuddles
  • Which of the following animals has a dog in its etymology?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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