"I had a rough day." vs "I had a tough day."

I know they express almost the same idea. But is there a slight difference between them? If there is, when should I use "rough" and when "tough"?

5 Answers 5


The same question was asked here but I shall offer my own interpretation on the difference in meanings.

According to the Oxford dictionary of ‘rough’, it means 1. Having an uneven or irregular surface; not smooth or level. When ‘rough’ is used figuratively to describe your day, it could give the impression that your day is very turbulent and is full of tribulations. I would imagine it to be like rough waves just cascading onto you, making you feel very worn out.

On the other hand, if your day is described as a tough one, it would be pointing towards definition 2.2 of ‘tough’ in the Oxford dictionary, meaning difficult. A tough day would be one that’s full of obstacles or things that made you feel upset.

Both tough and rough days would have you feel exhausted at the end of the day due to how emotionally taxing they are.


Rough could describe having a up and down day, hence the day balance. While tough is giving the impression of a hard and rigid day, not a moment that mitigate the pressure just hard/difficult right through.


I might be slightly more inclined to use "rough" if the day were hard because of lots of different things, and "tough" if the day were hard because of one big thing. But that's a very slight preference, and no one would be thrown or confused if they were used the other way round.


Like you said "tough" means physically strong. "Rough" to me is the action taken that's called rough. And "rough" is to me the state of mind your in, i.e. "I had a rough day at work."

So now we know


rough= state of mind

and ruff is the action taken, for example ruffian.

They all correlate somehow alternate spelling of rought


The differences :

  1. the letter, t & r. So, the meaning ought to be different.

  2. tough has a nuance of 'being strong physically.' rough has a nuance of 'being strong psychologically'

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