Definition of tough adjective from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//tʌf//
    ; NAmE NAmE//tʌf//
    (tougher, toughest) Texture of food, Confident
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  1. 1  having 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. 2  demanding 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 traders are calling for tougher action against vandals. opposite soft
  4. strong
  5. 3  strong 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(= somebody who knows what they want and is not easily influenced by other people). See related entries: Confident
  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. 5  difficult to cut or chew opposite tender Wordfinderchewy, creamy, crisp, crunchy, greasy, juicy, mushy, rubbery, tender, tough See related entries: Texture of food
  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 somebody 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.)
  13. Word OriginOld English tōh, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch taai and German zäh.Extra examples Has the government been tough enough on polluters? He may find it tough to pursue his plans. It’s very tough on the wives when the husbands go off like that. It’s very tough on the wives when the husbands leave. The government has promised to get tough on crime. The meat was a bit tough. The strong dollar has made it tough for small businesses. Then this guy started acting tough. Things were pretty tough at first. You have to be tough with these young thugs. Don’t be too tough on him—he was only trying to help. He had a tough childhood. It’s about time teachers started to get tough with bullies. It’s tough out there in the real world. She’s been having a tough time of it. The next couple of months will be tough, but I’m sure we’ll cope. The school takes a tough line on cheating. There will be tough new controls on car emissions. We must take a tough stance against terrorism.Idioms (North American English) 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.
    (informal) a person who is difficult to deal with or to influence
    a hard/tough nut (to crack)
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    a difficult problem or situation to deal with
    talk tough (on something)
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    (informal, especially North American English) to tell people very strongly what you want
      (as) tough as old boots, (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 old boots.
    2. 2not feeling or showing any emotion More Like ThisSimiles in idioms (as) bald as a coot, (as) blind as a bat, (as) bright as a button, (as) bold as brass, as busy as a bee, as clean as a whistle, (as) dead as a/​the dodo, (as) deaf as a post, (as) dull as ditchwater, (as) fit as a fiddle, as flat as a pancake, (as) good as gold, (as) mad as a hatter/​a March hare, (as) miserable/​ugly as sin, as old as the hills, (as) pleased as Punch, as pretty as a picture, (as) regular as clockwork, (as) quick as a flash, (as) safe as houses, (as) sound as a bell, (as) steady as a rock, (as) thick as two short planks, (as) tough as old bootsSee worksheet.
    1. 1used to show sympathy for something unfortunate that has happened to somebody ‘I failed by one point.’ ‘That's tough luck.’
    2. 2(ironic) used to show that you do not feel sorry for somebody 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)
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    (saying) when conditions or progress become difficult (strong and determined people work even harder to succeed)
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: tough