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Interesting Words and Expressions – When the going gets tough, the tough get going

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

What does it mean?

When you break it down and put it into context, “the going” means “the situation,” “gets tough” means “becomes difficult,” “the tough” means “people who are strong or enduring,” and “get going” means “become fully engaged.” Taken together, the meaning of the phrase is “When the situation becomes difficult, the strong will work harder to meet the challenge.”

Where does it come from?

The origin of the phrase has been attributed both to Joseph P. Kennedy (1888–1969), father of U.S. President John F. Kennedy (JFK), and sometimes to Norwegian-born American football player and coach Knute Rockne (1888–1931).

Enjoy a very popular American song that uses this proverb below.


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