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Tough vs tuff

Tough and tuff are two words that are pronounced the same way but have different spellings and very different meanings. They are homophones. We will look at the definitions of the words tough and tuff, where these terms came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Tough means strong, able to endure and cope with difficult conditions or pain, or describes someone who is prone to violence. Tough may also describe someone who has little empathy or is demanding. The word tough is also used to describe food that is difficult to chew. The word tough is derived from the Old English word toh which means strong, firm-textured, tenacious. Generally, tough is used as an adjective, but it may also be used as a verb. Related words are toughs, toughed, toughing.


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Tuff is a porous rock made of hardened volcanic ash, it is often used in construction. Tuff is very common in Italy and the Romans often used it in their buildings. The word tuff is derived from the Latin term tofus. Sometimes one sees the word tuff used in advertising in place of the word tough, however, this is not considered good English.

Examples

“Trading conditions remain tough, it is low growth and low or no inflation,” he said as he reported numbers for the third quarter. (The Evening Standard)

She told Buzzfeed: “Your GI tract is very strong, if it can digest a tough steak it can digest gum.” (The Sun)

When BVN Architecture decided to create a ravine of tuff rock running through DEXUS Property Group’s new $544 million office tower at 480 Queen Street, Brisbane, they had no idea the main tenant would end up being miner BHP Billiton. (The Australian Financial Review)

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