American English

Definition of tough adjective from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



    (tougher, toughest)
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  1. 1having or causing problems or difficulties a tough childhood It was a tough decision to make. She's been having a tough time of it (= a lot of problems) lately. He faces the toughest test of his leadership so far. It can be tough trying to juggle a career and a family.
  2. strict/firm
  3. 2demanding that particular rules be obeyed and showing a lack of sympathy for any problems or suffering that this may cause tough (on somebody/something) Don't be too tough on him—he was only trying to help. tough (with somebody/something) It's about time teachers started to get tough with bullies. The school takes a tough line on (= punishes severely) cheating. Local merchants are calling for tougher action against vandals. opposite soft
  4. strong
  5. 3strong enough to deal successfully with difficult conditions or situations a tough breed of cattle He's not tough enough for a career in sales. She's a tough cookie/customer (= someone who knows what they want and is not easily influenced by other people).
  6. 4(of a person) physically strong and likely to be violent You think you're so tough, don't you? He plays the tough guy in the movie.
  7. meat
  8. 5difficult to cut or chew opposite tender
  9. not easily damaged
  10. 6not easily cut, broken, torn, etc. a tough pair of shoes The reptile's skin is tough and scaly.
  11. unfortunate
  12. 7tough (on somebody) (informal) unfortunate for someone in a way that seems unfair It was tough on her being dropped from the team like that. (ironic) “I can't get it finished in time.” “Tough!” (= I don't feel sorry about it.)
    noun [uncountable] Her background had given her the physical and mental toughness that enabled her to fight for what she wanted.
  15. Idioms to be determined and refuse to change your attitude or ideas
    a hard/tough act to follow
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    a person who is so good or successful at something that it will be difficult for anyone else coming after them to be as good or successful She has been an excellent principal and will be a hard act to follow.
    a hard/tough nut (to crack)
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    a difficult problem or situation to deal with
    talk tough (on something) (informal)
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    to tell people very strongly what you want
      (as) tough as nails (informal)
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    1. 1very strong and able to deal successfully with difficult conditions or situations She's almost 90 but she's still as tough as nails.
    2. 2not feeling or showing any emotion
      tough luck (informal)
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    1. 1used to show sympathy for something unfortunate that has happened to someone “I failed by one point.” “That's tough luck.”
    2. 2(ironic) used to show that you do not feel sorry for someone who has a problem “If you take the car, I won't be able to go out.” “Tough luck!”
    when the going gets tough (the tough get going) (saying)
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    when conditions or progress become difficult (strong and determined people work even harder to succeed)
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: tough