View synonyms for tough


[ tuhf ]


, tough·er, tough·est.
  1. strong and durable; not easily broken or cut.

    Synonyms: hard, firm

    Antonyms: fragile

  2. not brittle or tender.
  3. difficult to masticate, as food:

    a tough steak.

  4. of viscous consistency, as liquid or semiliquid matter:

    tough molasses.

  5. capable of great endurance; sturdy; hardy:

    tough troops.

    Synonyms: durable

    Antonyms: weak, feeble

  6. not easily influenced, as a person; unyielding; stubborn:

    a tough man to work for.

    Synonyms: inflexible

  7. hardened; incorrigible:

    a tough criminal.

  8. difficult to perform, accomplish, or deal with; hard, trying, or troublesome:

    a tough problem.

  9. hard to bear or endure (often used ironically):

    tough luck.

  10. vigorous; severe; violent:

    a tough struggle.

  11. vicious; rough; rowdyish:

    a tough character;

    a tough neighborhood.

  12. practical, realistic, and lacking in sentimentality; tough-minded.
  13. Slang. remarkably excellent; first-rate; great.


  1. in a tough manner.


  1. a ruffian; rowdy.


/ tʌf /


  1. strong or resilient; durable

    a tough material

  2. not tender

    he could not eat the tough steak

  3. having a great capacity for endurance; hardy and fit

    a tough mountaineer

  4. rough or pugnacious

    a tough gangster

  5. resolute or intractable

    a tough employer

  6. difficult or troublesome to do or deal with

    a tough problem

  7. informal.
    unfortunate or unlucky

    it's tough on him


  1. a rough, vicious, or pugnacious person


  1. informal.
    violently, aggressively, or intractably

    to treat someone tough

  2. hang tough informal.
    to be or appear to be strong or determined


  1. slang.
    tr to stand firm, hold out against (a difficulty or difficult situation) (esp in tough it out )

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Derived Forms

  • ˈtoughish, adjective
  • ˈtoughly, adverb

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Other Words From

  • toughly adverb
  • toughness noun
  • super·tough adjective
  • un·tough adjective
  • un·toughly adverb
  • un·toughness noun

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Word History and Origins

Origin of tough1

First recorded before 900; Middle English (adjective); Old English tōh; compare Dutch taai, German zäh(e)

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Word History and Origins

Origin of tough1

Old English tōh; related to Old High German zāhi tough, Old Norse trodden ground in front of a house

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Idioms and Phrases

  1. hang tough, Slang. hang ( def 62 ).
  2. tough it out, Informal. to endure or resist hardship or adversity.

More idioms and phrases containing tough

  • get tough
  • gut (tough) it out
  • hang tough
  • hard (tough) act to follow
  • hard (tough) nut to crack

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Example Sentences

Our last game we were coming off Lewis & Clark, and that was a tough game.

This is a way for animals to break down tough plant material like grass.

He spent the entire ride explaining how he was tough on the gloves while he skied but rewaterproofed them as often as once a week during the season.

If not, gathering about 14,000 signatures in 120 days will be very tough.

I learned some very tough lessons during some very tough times.

His flesh is sagging a bit, but he is still trim and looks lean, sinewy and tough.

“You ask me my motivation,” Marvin says, moving back into his tough guy persona again.

After a bunch of tough talk, this round of the hacker-on-hacker fight nevered materialized.

Although tough environmental controls were put in place in 2000, enforcement has been haphazard.

It was also an occasion for voluptuary displays of tough-mindedness.

But this paper was a very tough, fibrous substance, and would resist quite a heavy blow as well as keep out the cold.

"Tough—but most of us have been there, one time or another," Goodell observed sympathetically; and with that the subject rested.

You know that I come of tough fiber—of that old Creole race of Pontelliers that dry up and finally blow away.

Another tough-looking man ran out of the building and jumped into the red car.

But it was tough on Clip to run into a relative and find him passing smoke-signals along for that prince of rascals, Dangerfield.


Related Words

Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.




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