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When the going gets tough, the tough get going

This page is about the saying "When the going gets tough, the tough get going"

American English

Possible meaning:
When a situation is difficult or dangerous, strong people work harder to resolve the problem. This saying relies on a difficult play on words; it could be rephrased word-for-word as: "When the situation becomes hard, strong people start working."

the going (noun): the situation; the ground; the environment | tough (adj.): difficult, hard | the tough (noun): tough people; hard, strong people | to get going (verb): start; go

Origin: This saying is attributed both to Joseph P. Kennedy (1888-1969), father of the USA President John F. Kennedy, and to Norwegian-born American football player and coach Knute Rockne (1888-1931).


This is typically used in American English but may be used in other varieties of English too.

Quick Quiz

In the saying "When the going gets tough, the tough get going", which word is used as a verb only?

a. tough

b. get

c. going

Saying of the Day

Contributor: Josef Essberger