Definition of tough in English:



  • 1(of a substance or object) strong enough to withstand adverse conditions or rough handling:

    ‘tough rucksacks for climbers’
    • ‘This is moisture resistant and forms a tough coating which can be washed with soap and water.’
    • ‘Polycarbonate is a tough material but not hard.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The Aldgate train was the standard London model, built of a tough steel frame upon which aluminium bodywork is bolted firmly down.’
    • ‘Stainless steel is a tough metal and does not rust, but it's harder to sharpen.’
    • ‘Wax is a tough moisture barrier, doesn't rot wood or synthetic stocks, and doesn't attract dirt.’
    • ‘But cement is exceptionally tough and not very porous and its use at Fountains has essentially reversed this process.’
    • ‘Bags are sent wrapped in tissue, wrapped in recycled plastic, then sealed into a recyclable tough paper mailer bag.’
    • ‘African rice is tough enough to fight drought, but many west African farmers abandoned the variety in favour of Asian strains that produce more grains per plant.’
    • ‘The handle is made of G-l0, a tough material favored by tactical knife makers.’
    • ‘I've sliced them in half, cut away the tough fibres, drizzled them with olive oil, and grilled them.’
    • ‘This bouncy rubber was surprisingly tough stuff.’
    • ‘He knows just how to make tight leggings, rough, tough leathers and plush cashmere absolutely dazzling.’
    • ‘Occasionally someone would get hit in the foot or leg, but school shoe leather was tough and the last thing you'd do was report any mishaps.’
    • ‘They are tough enough to withstand being walked on occasionally and will reward the passer-by with perfume released from the crushed foliage.’
    • ‘The balls used in boccia are mainly made of tough leather and filled with a grain-like substance.’
    • ‘Wood is a tough material that lasts a long time and is easy to repair.’
    • ‘If you have ever polished some hard, tough material like metal or marble you know how much energy it takes.’
    • ‘In early 1943 two American professors discovered that a very tough material could be produced by adding a small amount of wood pulp to water before freezing.’
    • ‘All of the following clothes are made up of a tough material which should be strong against almost all elements of magic.’
    durable, strong, resilient, resistant, sturdy, rugged, firm, solid, substantial, sound, stout, indestructible, unbreakable, hard, rigid, stiff, inflexible, toughened
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 (of food, especially meat) difficult to cut or chew:
      ‘the hastily prepared steak was tough’
      • ‘It's best to keep the stems out of most dishes, since all but the newest growth is too tough to chew.’
      • ‘The pigs' apprehension about being eaten results in tough meat, which is why pork no longer tastes good.’
      • ‘Move those cows too fast and you end up with very fit, very lean, very tough sirloin.’
      • ‘Rabbits, horses, and elephants chew tough grasses, leaves, and plants.’
      • ‘One or two are so contorted that poor old Lawson, who is a consummate professional, looks like he has been compelled to chew on a tough piece of sirloin and then spit it out in public.’
      • ‘The meat was a little tough, but the flavour, infused with lemon, was delicious, a light meat somewhere between lamb and beef.’
      • ‘The fruit is tough and prickly on the outside, tender and sweet on the inside.’
      • ‘She says it was slippery and she could not cut it with a knife. She took it in her hand and placed it in her mouth, but the ‘meat’ was so tough she could not bite through it.’
      • ‘Recipes from regions where tough meat is the norm often call for a marinade made with fruit or juice.’
      • ‘The man brought dry cheese, more water, and a hunk of tough meat that tasted more than a little rancid.’
      • ‘She chewed on the cooked piece of tough meat that had been in the saddlebag, not pausing to wonder how it had gotten there.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The lamb cutlet was also tough: though served quite rare, it was uncuttable, unchewable and tasteless.’
      • ‘I tried a small pastie that looked safe, but the meat inside was so tough I had to swallow it nearly whole after chewing for a couple of minutes.’
      • ‘I have a headache, and all I've had to chew on are these infernal, tough pieces of salt meat.’
      • ‘The meat is still tough and not as palatable as typical American cuisine, but it's also not that bad.’
      • ‘I got used to drinking powdered milk, living off rice and kidney beans, occasionally a bit of tough meat in a stew as a treat.’
      • ‘Duck legs have fairly tough meat - the legs are worked hard during their lifespan, making the flesh taut and muscly.’
      • ‘I've been grazing among the blogs and chewing that question like a tough mouthful of cud.’
      chewy, leathery, gristly, stringy, fibrous, sinewy, cartilaginous
      View synonyms
  • 2Able to endure hardship or pain:

    ‘she was as tough as old boots’
    • ‘Cosmopolitans, not tough pioneers, they lacked the grit required to face the hardships of frontier life.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘And, you know, he was a tough priest who was sympathetic, but you know, I think he was used to tragedy.’
    • ‘Football's about tough uncompromising individuals, who bleed real blood, take no prisoners and fight to the very end, yeah?’
    • ‘It was strange because in contrast my Nan was as tough as old boots; she just had a tendency to say insane things.’
    • ‘However, the tough Belgian was able to recover enough to catch the pack and hand with the grupetto on the final climb.’
    • ‘He was strong and brave, a happy-go-lucky person but also tough and able to live on his own.’
    • ‘To have to go through that family scandal and still be a sweet, genuine person - how tough she was to endure that.’
    • ‘But Duncan came from the generation before the welfare state, when to survive at all you had to be as tough as old boots - and he was.’
    • ‘Though you look delicate you are tough as nails and prone to intricacies…’
    • ‘She may be tough and indifferent on the outside but I could see that deep inside she was experiencing tremendous pain and sorrow.’
    • ‘He's a tough old bastard, and he's pulled through things like this before.’
    • ‘Another point I make in About Face was that I had learned about war from tough old sergeants and captains who had fought the big war.’
    • ‘They are a tough, resilient and uncomplaining people (as I saw first hand in the casualty areas in 1974).’
    • ‘Finally there is the underlying truth that Carol is as tough as old boots, and frankly, as sexy as a Sherman tank.’
    • ‘‘Reg is a real fighter by nature, he is as tough as old boots and will not give in,’ said Linn.’
    • ‘To be fair to him, he's as tough as old boots and he just galloped to the line.’
    • ‘Many of them have led hard lives already, and they are tough, angry and unforgiving.’
    • ‘I am, in fact, either as tough as old boots, or as soft as a particularly fluffy bunny, depending on who you ask, and when.’
    • ‘Happily, Russian skaters tend to be tough as old boots.’
    resilient, strong, hardy, gritty, determined, resolute, dogged, stalwart
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1 Having the confidence and determination to cope in difficult situations:
      ‘he liked editors who were tough enough to make the grade’
      • ‘Despite losing his round to an older competitor the tough tot's family said he would not be deterred.’
      • ‘She is young and tough, the servants respect her, and everything is in impeccable order.’
      • ‘A track for tough cars and tough drivers, it tests every component and every sinew to the limit and few pass with flying colours.’
      • ‘Clarence Moore fills various roles, from perimeter shooter to tough defender to solid rebounder.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He is smart, tough and instinctual, but a lack of speed hurts him in coverage.’
      • ‘He then fought and won a hard match with the tough Mr. D. to take back his crown.’
      • ‘A tough demeanor was required, but it wasn't innate as his reputation might lead us to think.’
      • ‘She needed to be tough, and sympathy would only throw her off guard.’
      • ‘Braham is a smart, tough leader, but he lacks the athleticism to be a full-time starter.’
      • ‘The girls were very tough and demonstrated their excellent skills and the only fair decision after three great rounds was a draw.’
      • ‘The women lost their first two conference matches to tough opponents.’
      • ‘Brees is smart, tough and had the confidence of his teammates after leading them to 20 wins over the last two years.’
      • ‘Driver 2 is equally tough, but at least this time the missions aren't impossibly hard from the very outset.’
      • ‘Maybe with the emergence of young, tough defenders such as Chris Gbandi that will change.’
      • ‘Brunson is a tough defender and solid passer, attributes coach Bill Cartwright seeks.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, co-star Jolie is perfectly suited as the tough, intelligent young lady who can pierce anybody with a silent stare.’
      • ‘Lincou is a muscular, tough player who likes to occupy the center of the court, causing his opponents to run around him.’
      • ‘Unwilling Accomplice is the story of two violent criminals on the run and the tough young woman who outwits them.’
    2. 2.2 Difficult and requiring determination or effort:
      ‘we have six tough matches in a row’
      • ‘Getting published and earning a bit of critical acclaim to spur on further creative efforts is tough for those starting out.’
      • ‘Sure, comedy is tough: it requires actual laughter to prove its value and worth.’
      • ‘They anticipated a tough match and were not disappointed, and despite what the scoreboard might suggest, this was far from a one sided game.’
      • ‘It was another historic match, a tough fight between bat and ball, but at the end the target of 313 proved to be a bit too much for the West Indies.’
      • ‘These questions require us to make tough decisions about how we distribute our finite resources.’
      • ‘I suppose it will follow that pattern, but it will require some very tough work.’
      • ‘It was a tough match, which provided excitement up to the very end with the result being a deserved draw for both sides.’
      • ‘I think acting is tough, as it requires great mental discipline.’
      • ‘It will be a tough match and to be honest I think Ireland will struggle to win the Championship as Wales have already done the business against both the English and the French.’
      • ‘‘They are a good side and it will be a tough match,’ he had offered dutifully beforehand, and he wasn't wrong.’
      • ‘With a tough run of matches in front of them it was important the Rams remained unbeaten in order to maintain their league position as the critical part of the season comes to fruition.’
      • ‘Getting control of your finances requires tough choices’
      • ‘It was a tough match and we're just glad to have come out of it okay.’
      • ‘This is a tough process and will require NASA to make some hard decisions between now and September.’
      • ‘This was a very tough, exciting match and at half time we were down 2 tries.’
      • ‘This will require tough decisions that cannot be ducked.’
      • ‘He has had a year off the sport with injury and yet, in a tough, exhausting match, he was everywhere.’
      • ‘Also: finishing a tough job requires that you draw your hand theatrically across your brow.’
      • ‘It was a fair, tough match and the referee had little or nothing to do.’
      • ‘But it was big job, a very tough assignment that required major cultural changes.’
      difficult, hard, knotty, thorny, baffling, tricky, ticklish, prickly, perplexing, puzzling, mystifying, troublesome, bothersome, irksome, intractable
      arduous, onerous, difficult, demanding, hard, heavy, taxing, burdensome, tiring, exhausting, punishing, wearying, fatiguing, laborious, strenuous, exacting, troublesome, formidable, stressful, herculean
      View synonyms
    3. 2.3 Used to express sympathy with someone in a difficult situation:
      ‘Poor kid. It's tough on her’
      • ‘Sereana Naikelekele says the situation is tough on all five kids.’
      • ‘It was tough on Pres Milltown who gave it everything but they just gave St Pats too big a lead and had little luck with marginal decisions.’
      • ‘It is tough on her, because everyone puts so much emphasis on the past and right now is the future.’
      • ‘I think it's going to be tough on the mother when that trial comes.’
      • ‘One of the worst, as any politician will attest, is that it is very tough on families.’
      • ‘Both goals were stamped with class but it was tough on City, who hardly warranted being behind by one, never mind two.’
      • ‘I called her every night from New York and I'm sure it was extremely tough on her to hear me, not normally an emotional person, sobbing every night.’
      • ‘He said it was tough on students for whom it was the last day of their exams.’
      • ‘There's a couple of times where she's gone to school and she's just in floods of tears and yeah it's really tough on them.’
      • ‘It turns out it's a lot of work and very tough on the staff.’
      • ‘It was tough on the Frenchman, who made no contact with Douglas.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It's going to be tough on staff because they wouldn't be home until 3am after an evening meeting.’
      • ‘He said it is very tough on Irish students who need up to 570 points to get medicine and may miss out by just 15 or 20 points.’
      • ‘It was tough on Belmullet who for most of the game had looked to be the better side but McDonagh's late goal knocked the wind out of their sails.’
      • ‘‘It's been pretty tough on her as she's had a lot of catching up to do but we're trying to get her on the track as quick as we can,’ he said.’
      • ‘It was tough on the Carlow girls who had put up a sterling second half fight back having trailed by six points at half time.’
      • ‘And they're geniuses, but it's just eaten them up and spit them out, and it's been tough on them.’
      • ‘The nation's 40th chief executive knew it would be tough on the light of his life.’
      • ‘It was tough on Barca but they showed they are learning quickly and can take great heart from their display.’
  • 3Demonstrating a strict and uncompromising approach:

    ‘police have been getting tough with drivers’
    ‘tough new laws on tobacco advertising’
    • ‘So some organisations, very good retail organisations in terms of discerned as being successful, are quite tough on those sorts of issues.’
    • ‘The reason for the low turnout could be that the authorities' tough approach scared people away.’
    • ‘They're very tough on executive privilege in general, and on the flow of information more broadly than that.’
    • ‘We'll be tough on fraud, and there is fraud, and we have to go after it.’
    • ‘As it developed, the Court took a tough approach to applying the law, and did not permit many restrictive agreements.’
    • ‘The move is designed to streamline the prosecution of people who make false claims, and forms part of the companies' new, tough approach.’
    • ‘He is every bit as tough on his Conservative and Liberal Democrat interviewees as he is on New Labour and its supporters.’
    • ‘It was in that role that Howard chiselled out a reputation for being tough and uncompromising.’
    • ‘North Yorkshire Police said that while they were not holding a specific campaign this summer, they would still be tough on drink-drivers.’
    • ‘But Blunkett's tough approach to social reform could only be argued by a minister free of personal distractions.’
    • ‘This appraisal is as tough, uncompromising and brutally simplistic as many of Brogden's law-and-order policies.’
    • ‘As we keep learning the hard way, efficient markets require tough regulators.’
    • ‘The noises coming from the ombudsman's office suggest the guidance, which is currently being written, will be fairly tough on companies.’
    • ‘Many thought so and believed that New Zealand, a tough and uncompromising side would provide a much sterner examination.’
    • ‘He attempted to appease the nasty wing of his own party by being tough on immigrants, while pretending that his proposals were liberal and sensible.’
    • ‘If criminal activity is taking place we will take a tough approach to drive it from our streets.’
    • ‘Maintain a tough zero-tolerance approach against graffiti in most locations.’
    • ‘The Government was positioning itself nicely to run a campaign based on its tough approach to dealing with asylum seekers.’
    • ‘The ombudsman does take a tough investigative approach to claims that people did not understand what they were buying.’
    • ‘Colchester police have launched a new tough approach on people begging in the town, which a spokesman said should solve the problem faced by shopkeepers.’
    strict, stern, severe, hard, harsh, firm, hard-hitting, adamant, inflexible, unyielding, unbending, uncompromising, unsentimental, unsympathetic
    View synonyms
    1. 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’
      • ‘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’
    • ‘Hollywood sells tough men, beautiful women, simple storylines and violence.’
    • ‘A group of teenagers thinking they were tough, accosted us in an alley.’
    • ‘Carl gathered that the man was trying to compensate for the obvious lack of prestige with a tough guy attitude.’
    • ‘Galvin's characters jump off the page at you whether he is describing a tough young cop like Fox or ‘Beano’ his snout.’
    • ‘While all agree he is tough and prone to losing his temper, there is almost universal respect for his abilities as a soldier.’
    • ‘But let us go back to the uneven struggle between a tough, young yob and a frail pensioner.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Even the ones who looked like tomorrow's tough teenagers were evincing childlike delight.’
    • ‘Mr. R. was a big, burly tough guy who melted when he had to give his girls away.’
    • ‘Sarah was a tough girl, muscular even, very strong and with a real hot temperament.’
    • ‘That sure as heck wasn't what a tough guy like Solid Snake would do.’
    • ‘Here she's at her best, in a part that requires her to be tough and crude, a relentless force of pure ego.’
    • ‘Given those credentials, the character cries out for an old-school tough guy approach.’
    • ‘He was a tall, muscular man, obviously tough and afraid of nothing.’
    • ‘He looks like a tough young man to me… Just wondering here, William, but who exactly are these kids?’
    • ‘Sadly, teams require tough guys or enforcers to keep the opposition honest.’
    • ‘Gilbart was still very strong and tough - the bulging muscles and calloused hands proved this.’
    • ‘About a moment after he left two tough and very heartless-looking guards walked in.’
    • ‘In my mind, I saw the tough young man I had met in the cathedral that night.’
    • ‘New Russian is a euphemism for black-market pimp, smuggler, gangster, any tough young man with capitalist cash, and there are lots of them.’
    rough, rowdy, unruly, disorderly, violent, wild, lawless, lawbreaking, criminal
    View synonyms
    1. 4.1 (of an area) notorious for violence and crime:
      ‘a tough part of the town’
      • ‘He has always had his sights set on working as a priest on a tough estate or in a prison.’
      • ‘He comes from a tough area of the country where dairying, in particular, is making great strides.’
      • ‘He grew up in a single-parent home in a tough area of Virginia Beach and didn't meet his father until two years ago.’
      • ‘Butch Hays himself came from the tough south central area of Los Angeles.’
      • ‘They were a group of very tough boys from a very tough area.’
      • ‘I have been proud of those ministers in our diocese who have willingly moved 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.’
      • ‘Lacy hails from a tough area of St Petersburg in Florida, and he openly admits that if it were not for boxing he could have trod the wrong side of the tracks like two of his brothers who ended up in jail.’
      • ‘As to walking through tough bits of town, it's not sympathy I was hoping to elicit for anyone.’
      • ‘This can be a very tough area - yuppies and artists mixing it with the desperate homeless and the families on welfare.’
      • ‘The Bulldogs, based at Belmore in a tough working-class area south-west of Sydney wanted to move to a Liverpool suburb.’
      • ‘But these lads are from the inner city with all the dangers and things that go on in tough areas.’
      • ‘So it's a very, very tough area that the marines are facing here.’
      • ‘Mr Galloway was born and brought up in a tough working-class area of Dundee.’
      • ‘The mother of six grew up in Garryowen - a tough area in Limerick City whose rugby club gave the world the term for hoofing the ball in the air and chasing frantically after it.’
      • ‘Although it was a tough estate, there was never any serious trouble.’
      • ‘Yet, it's a vehicle for tough people venturing into tough areas.’
      • ‘But I grew up in a tough area of the East End of London and didn't have it easy.’
      • ‘His mother had to move her seven children (Cisse is the youngest) from a pleasant country town to a tough estate in Arles.’
      • ‘When it comes to hard work in tough areas, no one can match him and it's not by accident that Sinn Féin have consistently failed to get a toehold in his area.’
      rough, rowdy, unruly, disorderly, violent, wild, lawless, lawbreaking, criminal
      View synonyms


  • A rough and violent man:

    ‘a gang of toughs’
    • ‘Groups of toughs would observe and point out the best actions, or ridicule the softies who couldn't cope.’
    • ‘But its tracing of the band's origins from glue-sniffing toughs from Queens to kings of punk resonated with a sincerity and sweetness that won over critics and the audience.’
    • ‘Ken has taken the breakup pretty hard and has since fallen in with a gang of toughs calling themselves the ‘Masters of the Universe’, headed by busty-chested warrior He-Man.’
    • ‘I would like to begin by dismissing the assertion that the AVC is nothing but a gang of toughs who go about setting fire to kittens and extorting cash from other VUWSA funded activity groups.’
    • ‘I'm sure I have avoided countless beatings by neighbourhood toughs because of my ability to resemble cloud cover.’
    • ‘Similarly Wang missed the gang era of the late 1970s and early 1980s when those children whose parents had been sent deep into the countryside for re-education formed their own cadres of street toughs.’
    • ‘Howson became famous for his vivid depictions of Glasgow street toughs before travelling to Bosnia as the UK's official war artist in 1993.’
    • ‘Or was he in a lock-up in the east end of Glasgow getting roughed up and questioned by some toughs with nasty scars who wanted the keys to his toy factory?’
    • ‘He joined the school football team, a motley collection of toughs.’
    • ‘Joe's relatives tell him to stick to his own kind, yet the toughs that beat him up don't see him as of their own class.’
    • ‘It narrates the tale of mid-19th century New York dominated by street toughs, racist gangs, corrupt policemen and politicians.’
    • ‘One disaster follows another on this, the worst day of Bruce Nolan's life, as he's fired from the station, beaten up by a gang of toughs, who then vandalise his car.’
    • ‘The sixth is a tough from the East who dresses up like a bad man and plays some low-down trick that gives the boys a bad name.’
    • ‘All this makes European football look like one of those dingy dive bars where a dozen or so swarthy, unshaven toughs chase two or three belles.’
    • ‘After seeing the deaths of their friends, they have little if any patience for organized street toughs.’
    • ‘In the afternoon, when we're all coming in from Sunday, the usual three toughs from the bus department get on for a surprise ticket inspection.’
    • ‘From his ornate hotel room, Kimbrough rules the town through his cohorts, Sheriff Swede Hansen, and his gunslinger Spanish, as well as a gang of local toughs.’
    • ‘He has written that academics work more insidiously than the street toughs they effectively team up with on occasion.’
    • ‘A misfit gang of working-class street toughs from Queens, the Ramones were ruled with an iron fist by guitarist Johnny.’
    • ‘These Christian bikers come from all walks of life, though many of them are ex-motorcycle gang toughs who've been born again.’
    ruffian, rowdy, thug, hoodlum, hooligan, brute, bully, bully boy, rough, gangster, desperado
    hard man, roughneck, yob, yobbo, heavy, bruiser, tough guy, toughie, gorilla, yahoo
    View synonyms


tough it out
  • Endure a period of hardship or difficulty.

    put up with it, grin and bear it, keep at it, keep going, stay with it, see it through, see it through to the end
    View synonyms


  • a tough nut to crack

  • tough shit (or titty)

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


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