- strong and durable; not easily broken or cut.
- not brittle or tender.
- difficult to masticate, as food: a tough steak.
- of viscous consistency, as liquid or semiliquid matter: tough molasses.
- capable of great endurance; sturdy; hardy: tough troops.
- not easily influenced, as a person; unyielding; stubborn: a tough man to work for.
- hardened; incorrigible: a tough criminal.
- difficult to perform, accomplish, or deal with; hard, trying, or troublesome: a tough problem.
- hard to bear or endure (often used ironically): tough luck.
- vigorous; severe; violent: a tough struggle.
- vicious; rough; rowdyish: a tough character; a tough neighborhood.
- practical, realistic, and lacking in sentimentality; tough-minded.
- Slang. remarkably excellent; first-rate; great.
- 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
SynonymsSee more synonyms for tough on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for toughness
And despite the training and toughness, the man was struggling to keep his family together.Hunt for Iraq Vet After Killing Spree
December 16, 2014
Right, that toughness was always inside her, like the way she had given up crying.Exit Interview: The Walking Dead's Beth Tells All
December 1, 2014
Female candidates once had to prove their toughness above all and never mention their personal lives.The Gubernatorial Glass Ceiling—and What It Means for Hillary Clinton
June 5, 2014
Grimes is a smart person who has projected nothing but fear and uncertainty thinly veiled with endless boasts of toughness.Alison Grimes Will Have to Step It Up to Beat Mitch McConnell
November 30, 2013
In this mood, Democrats may care a lot more about toughness and combativeness than about minute gradations of progressiveness.How Obama is Setting the Stage for Hillary in 2016
September 15, 2013
And all the more so, since for strength and toughness its eyes by nature are the best constructed.The Symposium
The toughness of aluminum can be increased by adding a small per cent.Practical Mechanics for Boys
J. S. Zerbe
The food, notwithstanding its toughness, rapidly disappeared.Lights and Shadows in Confederate Prisons
Homer B. Sprague
This is only a sample of its toughness and resisting power all along the line.Preventable Diseases
The strength and toughness of elm make it suitable for frames of tables.American Forest Trees
Henry H. Gibson
- 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)
Word Origin and History for toughness
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.).