adjective, tough·er, tough·est.


in a tough manner.


a ruffian; rowdy.


    hang tough, Slang. hang(def 56).
    tough it out, Informal. to endure or resist hardship or adversity.

Origin of tough

before 900; Middle English (adj.); Old English tōh; compare Dutch taai, German zäh(e)
Related formstough·ly, adverbtough·ness, nounsu·per·tough, adjectiveun·tough, adjectiveun·tough·ly, adverbun·tough·ness, noun

Synonyms for tough

Antonyms for tough Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tougher

Contemporary Examples of tougher

Historical Examples of tougher

  • There is no tougher man or more resolute fighter in the Army.

  • I do,—but it is going to be a tougher struggle than any of us expected.

    For the Liberty of Texas

    Edward Stratemeyer

  • "It's a tougher problem than we ever attacked in Euclid," remarked the younger.

    Two Boys in Wyoming

    Edward S. Ellis

  • It is tougher than our glass, and chips to a fine razor edge.

    True Words for Brave Men

    Charles Kingsley

  • “And we eat him too, though his steaks are tougher than cow meat,” laughed Fil.

    Fil and Filippa

    John Stuart Thomson

British Dictionary definitions for tougher



strong or resilient; durablea tough material
not tenderhe could not eat the tough steak
having a great capacity for endurance; hardy and fita tough mountaineer
rough or pugnaciousa tough gangster
resolute or intractablea tough employer
difficult or troublesome to do or deal witha tough problem
informal unfortunate or unluckyit's tough on him


a rough, vicious, or pugnacious person


informal violently, aggressively, or intractablyto treat someone tough
hang tough informal to be or appear to be strong or determined


(tr) slang to stand firm, hold out against (a difficulty or difficult situation) (esp in tough it out)
Derived Formstoughish, adjectivetoughly, adverb

Word Origin for tough

Old English tōh; related to Old High German zāhi tough, Old Norse trodden ground in front of a house
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for tougher



Old English toh "difficult to break or chew," from Proto-Germanic *tankhuz (cf. Middle Low German tege, Middle Dutch taey, Dutch taai, Old High German zach, German zäh). See rough for spelling change.

Figurative sense of "strenuous, difficult, hard to beat" is first recorded c.1200; that of "hard to do, trying, laborious" is from 1610s. Verb tough it "endure the experience" is first recorded 1830, American English. Tough guy first recorded 1932. Tough-minded first recorded 1907 in William James. Tough luck first recorded 1912; tough shit is from 1946.



"street ruffian," 1866, American English, from tough (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with tougher


In addition to the idioms beginning with tough

  • tough break
  • tough it out
  • tough nut
  • tough row to hoe
  • tough sledding

also see:

  • get tough
  • gut (tough) it out
  • hang tough
  • hard (tough) act to follow
  • hard (tough) nut to crack
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.