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Tough Definition and Meaning

By Maham Liaqat & Urooj Arif — Updated on March 6, 2024
Tough means having a high degree of resistance to stress, pressure, or wear; it can also describe someone strong or resilient in character. e.g., The new material is tough enough to withstand harsh conditions.

Tough Definitions

Physically durable and strong.
The boots are made from tough leather, ideal for hiking.
Hard to cut or chew.
The steak was too tough to eat comfortably.
Capable of aggressive or forceful action.
The team's defense was tough and unyielding.
Strong-minded or uncompromising.
She's tough in negotiations and always gets a good deal.
Difficult to endure or deal with.
The marathon was a tough challenge, but she finished.
Resilient or strong in character.
He's tough; he never gives up in the face of adversity.
Rigorous or strict in discipline.
The coach is known for his tough training sessions.
Severe or harsh in conditions or treatment.
The tough economic times forced many businesses to close.
Difficult to solve or understand.
The puzzle was tough, but he eventually figured it out.
Vigorously resistant to adverse conditions.
The plants in this region are tough, surviving with minimal water.
Able to withstand great strain without tearing or breaking; strong and resilient
A tough all-weather fabric.
Hard to cut or chew
Tough meat.
Physically hardy; rugged
Tough mountaineers.
A tough cop.
Strong-minded; resolute
A tough negotiator.
Aggressive; pugnacious.
Inclined to violent or disruptive behavior; rowdy or rough
A tough street group.
Difficult to endure; severe; harsh
A tough winter.
Trying or unpleasant
Had a tough day.
Difficult to deal with; demanding or troubling
It's tough to go to school and work a full-time job. The exam had many tough questions.
(Informal) Unfortunate; too bad
It was a tough break to get sick on the day of the concert.
(Slang) Fine; great.
A violent or rowdy person; a hoodlum or thug.
(of a material) Strong and resilient; sturdy.
The tent, made of tough canvas, held up to many abuses.
(of food) Difficult to cut or chew.
To soften a tough cut of meat, the recipe suggested simmering it for hours.
(of a person or animal) Rugged or physically hardy.
Only a tough species will survive in the desert.
(of a person) Stubborn or persistent; capable of stubbornness or persistence.
He had a reputation as a tough negotiator.
(of weather, etc.) Harsh or severe.
Rowdy or rough.
A bunch of the tough boys from the wrong side of the tracks threatened him.
(of questions, etc.) Difficult or demanding.
This is a tough crowd.
(material science) Undergoing plastic deformation before breaking.
(slang) Used to indicate lack of sympathy
If you don't like it, tough!
A person who obtains things by force; a thug or bully.
They were doing fine until they encountered a bunch of toughs from the opposition.
To endure.
To toughen.
Having the quality of flexibility without brittleness; yielding to force without breaking; capable of resisting great strain; as, the ligaments of animals are remarkably tough.
Not easily broken; able to endure hardship; firm; strong; - of objects and people; as, tough sinews.
A body made of brass, the crone demands, . . . Tough to the last, and with no toil to tire.
The basis of his character was caution combined with tough tenacity of purpose.
Not easily separated; viscous; clammy; tenacious; as, tough phlegm.
Stiff; rigid; not flexible; stubborn; as, a tough bow.
So tough a frame she could not bend.
Severe; violent; as, a tough storm.
Difficult to do, perform, or accomplish; as, a tough job.
Prone to aggressive or violent behavior; rowdyish; - of people, or groups; as, a tough neighborhood; a tough character.
A person who is tough{7}; a ruffian; a thug; as, a cluster of neighborhood toughs hanging out on the corner.
Someone who learned to fight in the streets rather than being formally trained in the sport of boxing
An aggressive and violent young criminal
A cruel and brutal fellow
Not given to gentleness or sentimentality;
A tough character
Very difficult; severely testing stamina or resolution;
A rugged competitive examination
The rugged conditions of frontier life
The competition was tough
It's a tough life
It was a tough job
Physically toughened;
The tough bottoms of his feet
Substantially made or constructed;
Sturdy steel shelves
Sturdy canvas
A tough all-weather fabric
Some plastics are as tough as metal
Violent and lawless;
The more ruffianly element
Tough street gangs
Feeling physical discomfort or pain (`tough' is occasionally used colloquially for `bad');
My throat feels bad
She felt bad all over
He was feeling tough after a restless night
Tough to cut or chew
Unfortunate or hard to bear;
Had hard luck
A tough break

Tough Snonyms


Able to withstand wear, pressure, or damage; hard-wearing.
They need durable equipment for the expedition.


(Of ground or terrain) having a broken, rocky, and uneven surface; (of a person) strong and robust; possibly difficult or challenging.
The rugged landscape is a challenge for hikers.


Solid, firm, and resistant to pressure; not easily broken, bent, or pierced.
The materials used are known for being exceptionally hard.


Able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.
The community showed resilient spirit in the aftermath of the disaster.


Strongly and solidly built.
The old house is still sturdy and sound.


(Of regulations, requirements, or conditions) strict, precise, and exacting.
The stringent rules ensure safety in the workplace.


Strong and healthy; vigorous.
The robust construction of the building allowed it to survive the earthquake.


Not easily bent or changed in shape; rigid.
The stiff fabric was difficult to sew.


Tending to keep a firm hold of something; clinging or adhering closely.
A tenacious grip.


Having an uneven or irregular surface; not smooth or soft.
The rough terrain made the journey difficult.

Tough Idioms & Phrases

Tough as nails

Extremely tough or durable.
She's tough as nails, nothing seems to shake her.

Tough it out

To endure a difficult situation without giving up.
Despite the challenges, they decided to tough it out.

Tough break

An unfortunate or unlucky situation.
Losing the game by just one point was a tough break.

Get tough

To become strict or harsh.
The government is getting tough on crime.

Tough luck

An expression of sympathy for a misfortune.
You didn't win the lottery? Tough luck, better luck next time.

Tough cookie

Someone who is strong and resilient.
You have to be a tough cookie to survive in this industry.

Tough love

Showing affection through strict behavior to encourage responsibility.
His parents used tough love to teach him the value of hard work.

Tough on someone

Being harsh or severe towards someone.
The coach is especially tough on new team members.

Tough call

A difficult decision to make.
Choosing between the two job offers is a tough call.

Tough act to follow

A performance or achievement that is hard to surpass.
Her previous success is a tough act to follow.

Talk tough

To speak in a determined or threatening way.
The leader talked tough in the negotiations.

Tough on the outside, soft on the inside

Someone who appears rough or stern but is actually gentle and kind.
He may seem intimidating, but he's tough on the outside, soft on the inside.

Tough times don't last, tough people do

A phrase expressing that resilient people can overcome difficult situations.
Remember, tough times don't last, tough people do.

Tough row to hoe

A difficult task or situation to handle.
Starting a new business is a tough row to hoe.

A tough sell

Something difficult to persuade others to accept or agree with.
The new policy was a tough sell to the board.

Tough going

A situation that is difficult or slow to progress.
The project was tough going, but we completed it on time.

Tough the situation out

To endure a difficult situation until it ends.
We just have to tough the situation out until things improve.

Tough nut to crack

A problem that is hard to solve or a person who is hard to understand.
The new software bug is a tough nut to crack.

Tough as old boots

Extremely durable or tough.
That old jacket of his is as tough as old boots.

Play tough

To act in a determined and forceful manner.
In business, you sometimes have to play tough to succeed.

Tough Example Sentences

The new policy imposes tough penalties on violators.
The material is tough enough to resist tears and abrasions.
Despite the tough loss, the team remained optimistic.
The tough fabric is ideal for outdoor gear.
They went through some tough negotiations before reaching an agreement.
The winter was particularly tough this year, with record snowfalls.
She faced a tough decision that would change her career path.
He's had a tough life, but it's made him stronger.
The examination was tough, but I managed to pass.
The tough terrain made the hike challenging.
She's known for her tough stance on corruption.
The team needs a tough strategy to win the championship.
His tough exterior hides a kind heart.
It's a tough market, but there are still opportunities.
The tough crowd didn't intimidate the performer.

Common Curiosities

How do we divide tough into syllables?

Tough is a single-syllable word, so it is not divided.

What is a stressed syllable in tough?

Since tough is a single-syllable word, the entire word is stressed: tough.

Why is it called tough?

Tough comes from the Old English 'toh', meaning strong, firm, or durable, reflecting its use to describe resilience or durability.

How many syllables are in tough?

Tough has one syllable.

What is the pronunciation of tough?

Tough is pronounced as /tʌf/.

How is tough used in a sentence?

Tough is often used to describe something or someone that is resilient or difficult, e.g., The team faced a tough opponent but managed to win.

What is the root word of tough?

The root of tough is the Old English 'toh', which means strong or durable.

What part of speech is tough?

Tough is an adjective. It can also be used informally as a noun in contexts like "a tough" to mean a tough person.

What is the verb form of tough?

Tough is primarily an adjective. The verb form related to tough is "toughen," meaning to make or become tough.

Is tough a noun or adjective?

Tough is primarily an adjective but can be used informally as a noun.

Is tough an abstract noun?

No, tough is not an abstract noun.

Is tough an adverb?

No, tough is not commonly used as an adverb.

Is tough a collective noun?

No, tough is not a collective noun.

Is the tough term a metaphor?

Tough can be used metaphorically to describe resilience or strength in non-physical contexts.

Is the word tough imperative?

As an adjective, tough cannot form an imperative. The related verb "toughen" can be used in imperative sentences, e.g., "Toughen up."

Is the word tough Gerund?

No, tough is not a gerund. "Toughening," from the verb "toughen," can serve as a gerund.

Is the word “tough” a Direct object or an Indirect object?

As an adjective, tough does not serve as a direct or indirect object. When used informally as a noun, it could be a direct object, e.g., "They respect the tough."

Is tough a negative or positive word?

Tough is neutral; it can have a positive connotation when referring to resilience and a negative connotation when referring to difficulty.

Which vowel is used before tough?

The vowel 'u' appears in tough, but the article "a" is used before tough, not "an," because tough starts with a consonant sound.

Which preposition is used with tough?

Prepositions like "on," "in," "with," and "for" can be used with tough, depending on the context.

Which conjunction is used with tough?

Conjunctions like "and," "but," "or," etc., can be used in sentences involving the word tough.

What is another term for tough?

Another term for tough could be "resilient" or "sturdy."

What is the singular form of tough?

Tough is an adjective and does not have singular or plural forms. When used informally as a noun, it remains "tough."

What is the plural form of tough?

As an adjective, tough does not change in the plural. Informally as a noun, the plural can be "toughs."

Which determiner is used with tough?

Determiners like "the," "a," "this," "that," "my," etc., can be used with tough when it functions as an informal noun or precedes a noun it modifies.

Which article is used with tough?

The article "a" is used with tough when it functions as an informal noun, e.g., "He's a tough to deal with."

What is the opposite of tough?

The opposite of tough could be "fragile," "weak," or "tender."

Is tough a vowel or consonant?

The word tough starts with the consonant 't'.

Is tough a countable noun?

When used informally as a noun, "tough" can be countable (e.g., "a few toughs in the neighborhood"). As an adjective, it's not applicable.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Maham Liaqat
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

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