[ tuhf ]
See synonyms for: toughtoughertoughesttoughness on

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

  2. not brittle or tender.

  1. difficult to masticate, as food: a tough steak.

  2. of viscous consistency, as liquid or semiliquid matter: tough molasses.

  3. capable of great endurance; sturdy; hardy: tough troops.

  4. not easily influenced, as a person; unyielding; stubborn: a tough man to work for.

  5. hardened; incorrigible: a tough criminal.

  6. difficult to perform, accomplish, or deal with; hard, trying, or troublesome: a tough problem.

  7. hard to bear or endure (often used ironically): tough luck.

  8. vigorous; severe; violent: a tough struggle.

  9. vicious; rough; rowdyish: a tough character;a tough neighborhood.

  10. practical, realistic, and lacking in sentimentality; tough-minded.

  11. Slang. remarkably excellent; first-rate; great.

  1. in a tough manner.

  1. a ruffian; rowdy.

Idioms about tough

  1. hang tough, Slang. hang (def. 62).

  2. tough it out, Informal. to endure or resist hardship or adversity.

Origin of tough

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

Other words for tough

Opposites for tough

Other words from tough

  • toughly, adverb
  • toughness, noun
  • su·per·tough, adjective
  • un·tough, adjective
  • un·tough·ly, adverb
  • un·tough·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use tough in a sentence

  • But our forebears were composed of less delicate nerves and tougher thews and sinews than ourselves.

  • Mrs Mason worked away as hard as any of them; but she was older and tougher; and, besides, the gains were hers.

    Ruth | Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
  • In metal bridges wrought iron has been replaced by mild steel—a stronger, tougher and better material.

  • But in none of his stories did Alger ever portray a tougher background or give it a bigger skyrocket finish.

    David Lannarck, Midget | George S. Harney
  • You look tougher than ever, and here am I growing palpably old.

    Paul Patoff | F. Marion Crawford

British Dictionary definitions for tough


/ (tʌf) /

  1. strong or resilient; durable: a tough material

  2. not tender: he could not eat the tough steak

  1. having a great capacity for endurance; hardy and fit: a tough mountaineer

  2. rough or pugnacious: a tough gangster

  3. resolute or intractable: a tough employer

  4. difficult or troublesome to do or deal with: a tough problem

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

Origin of tough

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

Derived forms of tough

  • toughish, adjective
  • toughly, adverb

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with tough


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.