Definition of tough in English:

tough

Syllabification: tough
Pronunciation: /təf
 
/

adjective

1(Of a substance or object) strong enough to withstand adverse conditions or rough or careless handling: tough backpacks for climbers
More example sentences
  • He knows just how to make tight leggings, rough, tough leathers and plush cashmere absolutely dazzling.
  • If you have ever polished some hard, tough material like metal or marble you know how much energy it takes.
  • The ground began shacking with such great force, not even the lifeless roots obscured in the grey soil were tough enough to hold up their dying masters.
Synonyms
durable, strong, resilient, sturdy, rugged, solid, stout, long-lasting, heavy-duty, industrial-strength, well built, made to last
1.1(Of a person or animal) able to endure hardship or pain; physically robust: even at this ripe old age, he’s still 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.
Synonyms
robust, resilient, strong, hardy, rugged, flinty, fit; stalwart, tough as nails
1.2Able to protect one’s own interests or maintain one’s own opinions without being intimidated by opposition; confident and determined: she’s both sensitive and tough
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.
1.3Demonstrating a strict and uncompromising attitude or 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.
Synonyms
strict, stern, severe, stringent, rigorous, hard, firm, hard-hitting, uncompromising; unsentimental, unsympathetic
1.4(Of a person) strong 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.
1.5(Of an area) notorious for violence and crime.
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.
1.6(Of food, especially meat) difficult to cut or chew.
More example sentences
  • I've been grazing among the blogs and chewing that question like a tough mouthful of cud.
  • Hominids had teeth that resembled those of pigs and bears, which can chew tough, fiber-rich food.
  • Most of them are sipping coffee, or reading newspapers, or chewing morosely on tough bread.
Synonyms
2Involving considerable difficulty or hardship; requiring great determination or effort: the training has been quite tough he had a tough time getting into a good college
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.
Synonyms
2.1Used to express sympathy with someone in an unpleasant or 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.
2.2 [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

noun

Back to top  
A tough person, especially a gangster or criminal: young toughs sporting their state-of-the-art firearms
More example sentences
  • They're basically young toughs in these projects, and they're just not responding to any kind of calls for moderation to the violence, not even from their parents, by the way.
  • He didn't want unemployed young toughs handing out street justice.
  • The three obviously mature gentlemen successfully vanquish a group of unruly young toughs with head butts.
Synonyms
ruffian, thug, goon, hoodlum, hooligan
informal roughneck, hood, heavy, bruiser, hardman, yahoo

verb

(tough it out) informal Back to top  
Endure a period of hardship or difficulty.
More example sentences
  • We've been trying to tough it out but it's difficult to come together in a short space of time under a new coach.
  • We always seem to be able to tough it out when things are against us.
  • Instead, he tried to use his bully-boy manner and arrogance to tough it out.

Origin

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

Phrases

a tough nut to crack

see nut.

tough shit (or titty)

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

Derivatives

toughish

adjective
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.

toughly

adverb
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.

toughness

noun
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.

Definition of tough in:

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