Green’s Dictionary of Slang

tough adv.

[tough adj.]

1. intensely, enthusiastically, commitedly.

[US](con. 1920s) Dos Passos Big Money in USA (1966) 742: Charley was scared of dancing too tough so he held her a little away from him.
[US]C. Cooper Jr Scene (1996) 9: I went for you real tough [...] I like your style.
[US]N. Heard Howard Street 118: I’ma see what you guys want so tough that you gotta mess wid me when I’m gamblin’.
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 6: I didn’t go for that scene too tough.
[US]‘Master Pimp’ Pimp’s Rap 87: I was macking tough. I went through whores like changing clothes.

2. in an aggressive manner.

[US]D. Runyon ‘Social Error’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 449: He is building himself up to talk tough to a waiter.
[US]R. Chandler Little Sister 105: That’s why they talk so tough.
[US]B. Schulberg On the Waterfront (1964) 34: Terry walked tough along the bars of river street.
[UK]P. Theroux Family Arsenal 94: Hood had talked tough, and now Murf believed he was tough.
[US](con. 1985–90) P. Bourjois In Search of Respect 198: I was only doing what the big boys were doing. Because I was hanging out tough.
[US](con. 1964–8) J. Ellroy Cold Six Thousand 610: On va tuer le cochon. le cochon va mourir. Pete said yes. Pete amended. Pete said Die Tough.

3. attractively.

[US]H. Simmons Corner Boy 10: This broad was [...] stacked up real tough, with black, pretty hair and a crazy smile.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 135: She’s stacked tough enough to make a preacher lay his Bible down.

4. resolutely.

[US]L. Stringer Grand Central Winter (1999) 71: She started talking tough. Thirty-days-at-Riker’s-Island tough, to be exact.
[US](con. 1964–8) J. Ellroy Cold Six Thousand 279: Barb was okay. Stanton prepared her. Barb held in tough.

In phrases

do it tough (v.)

(Aus.) to suffer.

[Aus]Sun (Sydney) 10 Nov. 2/1: His head dropped on his knees and he sobbed, unnoticed. ‘Doin’ it tough, sonny?’.