tough

adjective
\ˈtəf \

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

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Other Words from tough

Adjective

toughly adverb
toughness noun

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

On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in Concord, N.H., touting a federal plan to get tougher on fentanyl dealers in cities hit hardest by the opiate abuse crisis. Yvonne Abraham, BostonGlobe.com, "The truth about Lawrence," 14 July 2018 On Friday morning, he was taken to a military exercise in an attempt to show that Britain is tough on terrorism, followed by an afternoon meeting at Chequers. Seung Min Kim, Washington Post, "After disparaging his hosts, Trump meets with Theresa May," 13 July 2018 And Michael, a wounded warrior from U.S. Army service in Iraq, says that the question may have been even tougher for Tanya. Gary Graff, Billboard, "The War and Treaty Get Real About Relationships on 'Are You Ready to Love Me?': Premiere," 12 July 2018 The road was even tougher at the 42-team, double-elimination state finals as Poway was thrown into the loser’s bracket. Terry Monahan, Pomerado News, "Poway softball team heads to Western Nationals," 12 July 2018 The vest is made out of 100-denier ripstop nylon, which is tougher than the material used on many of Ultimate Direction’s other running vests. Ariella Gintzler, Outside Online, "Testing Ultimate Direction’s New OCR Vest," 12 July 2018 If the application process is easier than researchers are accustomed to, the review process will be tougher for King and the various subcommittees of Social Science One. Robbie Gonzalez, WIRED, "Facebook Opens Its Private Servers to Scientists Studying Fake News," 11 July 2018 The Pioneers, who won the Liberty League championship and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division IV-A semifinals last season, made things tough on Burbank from the get-go. Jeff Tully, latimes.com, "LoVett, Providence defense hold Burbank at bay in summer girls' basketball," 11 July 2018 The hit allowed Germantown to survive on a day that was tough for higher seeds in its sectional. Mark Stewart, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "WIAA baseball: Down to his last strike, Joe Seymour delivers for Germantown," 11 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

That might explain why some people who love Trump’s tough-talking style are angry over the comments Waters made at a campaign rally last week. Dahleen Glanton, chicagotribune.com, "Maxine Waters shows that gutsiness is in the eye of the beholder," 28 June 2018 Might find things tough now the element of surprise is gone. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "World Cup: Ranking all 32 teams, from hopeless to hopefuls," 22 May 2018 Here is a look at some of those potential regional final matchups: Mukwonago at Middleton: Mukwonago finished sixth in the rugged Classic 8 but played a number of top teams tough. Mark Stewart, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee-area girls soccer rankings, weekly honors," 28 May 2018 If the polls are right, Mr Duque’s tough-talking modernity will defeat Mr Petro’s radicalism in a run-off on June 17th. The Economist, "Colombians hope for change in the first post-war presidential election," 26 May 2018 And Mr Hannity, another tough-talking New Yorker, who feeds Mr Trump’s love of conspiracy theories and hatred of snooty elites, is his closest confidant on Fox. The Economist, "Sean Hannity shares a lot with Donald Trump, including an attorney," 19 Apr. 2018 Picking a jury has proven particularly tough after the #MeToo movement started toppling famous men in rapid succession months after Cosby's first trial ended in a deadlock. CBS News, "Bill Cosby trial judge delivers defense 2 big victories," 3 Apr. 2018 The seeming availability of guns, savvy intelligence gathering and the can-do, tough-guy image of Israelis like Mr. Barkat have impressed some American gun-rights advocates. Isabel Kershner, New York Times, "Is Israel a Model When It Comes to Guns, as Mike Huckabee Says?," 20 Feb. 2018 The cold air hangs tough over the area, with highs mainly in the lower 40s. David Streit, Washington Post, "D.C.-area forecast: Cold quickly gives way to a milder weekend, but Sunday turns damp," 25 Jan. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 Cody Krause did the tough running up the middle by gaining 78 yards on 22 carries, including a 6-yard touchdown. Andrew Gruman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Five Takeaways: Muskego 28, Catholic Memorial 6," 8 Sep. 2017 Thus, Mayweather is dipping into the ranks of the UFC in some sort of Tough Guy Face-off, a battle-sport version of Godzilla vs. Mothra. Will Leitch, Daily Intelligencer, "It Seems Like Sports Can’t Sink Much Lower Than Mayweather-McGregor. But Just Wait.," 23 July 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Unfortunately, the people who tough it out and open up a gallery are the true believers. Mark Kurlyandchik, Detroit Free Press, "Anthony Bourdain dishes on Trump, Detroit, terrible food in 2016," 8 June 2018 Residents toughing it out in the valleys around Los Angeles and in the inland region to the east faced the possibility of unhealthy air quality. CBS News, "Southern California heat wave breaks records," 6 July 2018 Even starting pitcher Austin Bibens-Dirkx, who was tagged with five runs on six hits, including two home runs in the first three innings, toughed it out to go six and keep the Rangers within 5-2. Stefan Stevenson, star-telegram, "Astros hold on against Rangers but Shin-Soo Choo stretches on-base streak to 43 games," 3 July 2018 Read: Incarcerated opioid addicts often have to tough out withdrawal. Joel Shannon, USA TODAY, "Near a Nebraska town, cops seize enough opioids to kill over 26 million," 26 May 2018 Most people will try to tough it out with more over-the-counter medications, eye drops and nasal sprays, Portnoy said. Kelsey Ryan, kansascity, "Are your allergies getting worse? Climate change may be to blame," 19 June 2018 Although the day started out gray and rainy, visitors to the recent Open House at the Dunes Learning Center toughed out the morning hours to enjoy a great sunny afternoon. Sue Ellen Ross, Post-Tribune, "Discovering the wonders of the dunes," 11 June 2018 But with forest closures and the looming threat of wildfires, some people may think they’ll be forced to tough it out in temperatures approaching 100 degrees this weekend. Weldon B. Johnson, azcentral, "Despite forest closures, northern Arizona open for business on Memorial Day weekend," 24 May 2018 The most impressive macro factor throughout is that Philly was never out-worked or out-toughed. Jeremy Woo, SI.com, "The Sixers Passed Their First Test With Relative Ease," 24 Apr. 2018

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

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

Middle English, from Old English tōh; akin to Old High German zāhi tough

Adverb

see tough entry 1

Noun

see tough entry 1

Verb

see tough entry 1

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Statistics for tough

Last Updated

11 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tough

The first known use of tough was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for tough

tough

adjective

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)

: a tough and violent person

tough

adjective
\ˈtəf \
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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Comments on tough

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