Meaning of “tough” in the English Dictionary

"tough" in British English

See all translations


uk /tʌf/ us /tʌf/

tough adjective (STRONG)

B2 strong; not easily broken or made weaker or defeated:

These toys are made from tough plastic.
Children's shoes need to be tough.
You have to be tough to be successful in politics.
informal Their lawyer is a real tough customer/nut (= person).

C2 strong and determined:

Tough new safety standards have been introduced for cars.
There have been calls for tougher controls/restrictions on what online retailers are allowed to sell.
After some tough bargaining, we finally agreed on a deal.
I think it's time the police got tougher on/with (= treated more severely) people who drink and drive.
The government is continuing to take a tough line on terrorism.

More examples

  • I can't eat this meat - it's too tough.
  • Polyurethane varnish provides a tough, scratch-resistant finish.
  • We need a mayor who is tough enough to clean up this town.
  • You'll need some fairly tough footwear to go walking up mountains.
  • Several governments have adopted tough new anti-terrorist legislation in the wake of the attacks.

tough adjective (DIFFICULT)

B2 difficult to do or to deal with:

They've had an exceptionally tough life.
They will be a tough team to beat.
The company is going through a tough time at the moment.
We've had to make some very tough decisions.
My boss has given me a tough job/assignment.
Many homeless people are facing a tough winter.

More examples

  • It's been a tough six months and I feel I've earned a few weeks off.
  • We'll have to make some tough decisions - there are no easy options.
  • It's going to be a tough competition but I'm mentally prepared for it.
  • This course is really tough, - sometimes I feeling like packing it all in.
  • Now I'm going to ask you a really tough question - are you ready?

tough adjective (UNLUCKY)

C2 informal unlucky:

"I have to work late today because I'm very behind on my work." "Oh, tough luck!"
It's tough on Geoff that he's going to miss the party.

informal sometimes used to show that you have no sympathy for someone's problems or difficulties:

"I don't have any money left." "Well, (that's just) tough - you shouldn't have spent it all on cigarettes."
adverb uk /ˈtʌ us /ˈtʌ

These boots are very toughly (= strongly) made.
We live in a toughly competitive world.
uk /ˈtʌf.nəs/ us /ˈtʌf.nəs/


She has a reputation for toughness (= being strong and determined).
They can't face the toughness of the competition.

toughnoun [ C ]

uk /tʌf/ us /tʌf/ also toughie old-fashioned informal

(Definition of “tough” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"tough" in American English

See all translations

toughadjective [ -er/-est only ]

us /tʌf/

tough adjective [ -er/-est only ] (STRONG)

not easily broken, weakened, or defeated; strong:

These toys are made of tough plastic.
You have to be tough to be successful in politics.
The police are getting tougher on illegal parking.

Results or actions that are tough are severe and determined:

Tough new safety standards for cars are being introduced this week.

tough adjective [ -er/-est only ] (DIFFICULT)

difficult to do or deal with:

They will be a tough team to beat.
We’ve had to make some very tough decisions.
It’s going to be a tough winter.

Food that is tough is difficult to cut or eat:

a tough steak

tough adjective [ -er/-est only ] (VIOLENT)

likely to be violent or to contain violence:

a tough guy
a tough neighborhood

(Definition of “tough” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

Blogs about "tough"