Definition of tough in English:


Line breaks: tough
Pronunciation: /tʌf


  • 2Able to endure hardship or pain: she was as tough as old boots
    More example sentences
    • Happily, Russian skaters tend to be tough as old boots.
    • It then turned out that my grandad is as tough as old boots, and probably just wanted to take attention away from me getting a job.
    • Finally there is the underlying truth that Carol is as tough as old boots, and frankly, as sexy as a Sherman tank.
    resilient, strong, hardy, gritty, determined, resolute, dogged, stalwart; rugged, fit, robust, powerful, red-blooded, doughty; hardened, cynical, hard-bitten
    informal hard, (as) tough as old boots
  • 2.1Having the confidence and determination to cope in difficult situations: he liked editors who were tough enough to make the grade
    More example sentences
    • Brees is smart, tough and had the confidence of his teammates after leading them to 20 wins over the last two years.
    • In any case, with Beeching reluctant to play the game and with Marples determined to be tough, it was difficult to predict which lines would be spared in advance.
    • I saw the older men trying to demonstrate they were still tough and able.
  • 2.2Difficult and requiring determination or effort: we have six tough matches in a row
    More example sentences
    • I think acting is tough, as it requires great mental discipline.
    • These questions require us to make tough decisions about how we distribute our finite resources.
    • Also: finishing a tough job requires that you draw your hand theatrically across your brow.
  • 2.3Used to express sympathy with someone in a difficult situation: Poor kid. It’s tough on her
    More example sentences
    • Sereana Naikelekele says the situation is tough on all five kids.
    • It is tough on Maloney that the arduous assignment of a UEFA Cup tie at home to VfB Stuttgart is being billed as if it were the equivalent of finishing school for the player.
    • I think it's going to be tough on the mother when that trial comes.
  • 3Demonstrating a strict and uncompromising approach: police have been getting tough with drivers tough new laws on tobacco advertising
    More example sentences
    • As it developed, the Court took a tough approach to applying the law, and did not permit many restrictive agreements.
    • The Government was positioning itself nicely to run a campaign based on its tough approach to dealing with asylum seekers.
    • But Blunkett's tough approach to social reform could only be argued by a minister free of personal distractions.
    strict, stern, severe, hard, harsh, firm, hard-hitting, adamant, inflexible, unyielding, unbending, uncompromising, unsentimental, unsympathetic; merciless, ruthless, callous, hard-hearted, uncaring, cold, cool, stony, stony-hearted, flinty
    informal hard-nosed, hard-boiled
  • 3.1 [often as exclamation] Used to express a lack of sympathy with someone: I feel the way I feel, and if you don’t like it, tough
    More example sentences
    • If what they did is within the parameters of the law, then tough for her she should have known better.
  • 4Strong and prone to violence: tough young teenagers
    More example sentences
    • While all agree he is tough and prone to losing his temper, there is almost universal respect for his abilities as a soldier.
    • Galvin's characters jump off the page at you whether he is describing a tough young cop like Fox or ‘Beano’ his snout.
    • Outside the town centre pubs, tough young men and women in vests, jeans and tattoos were giving each other the thumbs up and cackling with glee.
  • 4.1(Of an area) notorious for violence and crime: a tough part of the town
    More example sentences
    • Yet, it's a vehicle for tough people venturing into tough areas.
    • Brought up the hard way, the Garda believed that for one to become so prominent in such a tough area, there was no doubting Mr Kelly was a highly intelligent man.
    • So it's a very, very tough area that the marines are facing here.


informal Back to top  


(tough it out) • informal Back to top  
  • Endure a period of hardship or difficulty.


a tough nut to crack

see nut.

tough shit (or titty)

vulgar slang Used to express a lack of sympathy with someone.



More example sentences
  • This toughish walk takes 4-5 hours, but leads through spectacular scenery.
  • Ours was toughish and not much on taste either.
  • The buffet runs a fish-centric gamut from savory casseroles and coconut-milk stews to toughish scallops and decent sushi.


More example sentences
  • These acts are illegal and have to be pursued vigorously and toughly, without any exceptions.
  • However, Britain and the US may struggle to persuade the other three permanent members of the Security Council - France, Russia and China - not to use their vetoes to block such a toughly worded resolution.
  • As I have indicated, there is widespread ignorance of penal affairs, and talking toughly about crime and its punishment is a good way to appeal, through that ignorance, to the illiberal and the reactionary.


More example sentences
  • They had the determination, mental toughness and abundant stamina to make the grade.
  • They have earned a reputation for their toughness and determination.
  • That means consistency from game to game, and toughness and fitness throughout a tournament.


Old English tōh, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch taai and German zäh.

More definitions of tough

Definition of tough in:

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day astrogation
Pronunciation: ˌastrə(ʊ)ˈgeɪʃ(ə)n
(in science fiction) navigation in outer space