Definition of difficult in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈdɪfɪk(ə)lt/


1Needing much effort or skill to accomplish, deal with, or understand: she had a difficult decision to make the questions are too difficult for the children
More example sentences
  • We all acknowledged the fact that this decision is very difficult for you to understand.
  • It is as difficult for us to understand adolescents as it is for them to understand us.
  • It is very difficult for me to disagree with the statement that they deplore it.
hard, strenuous, arduous, laborious, heavy, tough, onerous, burdensome, demanding, punishing, gruelling, grinding, back-breaking, painful;
exhausting, tiring, fatiguing, wearing, wearying, wearisome
informal hellish, killing
British informal knackering
archaic toilsome
rare exigent
problematic, hard, puzzling, baffling, perplexing, confusing, mystifying, mysterious;
complicated, complex, involved, intricate, knotty, thorny, ticklish;
obscure, abstract, abstruse, recondite, enigmatic, impenetrable, unfathomable, over one's head, above one's head, beyond one
informal fiddly, sticky, no picnic
North American informal gnarly
archaic wildering
rare involute, involuted
1.1Characterized by or causing hardships or problems: a difficult economic climate
More example sentences
  • The State of Oregon is looking hard to save where it can in this difficult business climate.
  • I was also a union steward at that time involved in long and difficult negotiations.
  • The whole situation is made more difficult by the complexity of the cost equations.
inconvenient, awkward, unfavourable, unfortunate, inappropriate, unsuitable, untimely, ill-timed, inopportune, inexpedient, disadvantageous
archaic unseasonable
bad, tough, grim, terrible, awful, dreadful, nightmarish, dark, black, hard, adverse, unpleasant, unwelcome, disagreeable, distressing, harrowing;
straitened, hard-pressed
literary direful
archaic or humorous parlous
1.2(Of a person) not easy to please or satisfy; awkward: Lily could be difficult
More example sentences
  • It's quite a hard thing to say, but my Nan is a very difficult person for me to be around.
  • My character in the film had a very difficult father and there was one scene in which she had to stand up to him.
  • He has succeeded in showing us that he is a difficult man, but that needed no great mastery.
troublesome, tiresome, trying, exasperating, demanding, unmanageable, intractable, perverse, contrary, recalcitrant, obstreperous, refractory, fractious;
unaccommodating, unhelpful, uncooperative, unamenable, unreasonable, disobliging, stubborn, obstinate, bull-headed, pig-headed;
hard to please, hard to satisfy, fussy, particular, over-particular, fastidious, perfectionist, critical, hypercritical, finicky;
British  awkward;
Scottish  thrawn
informal cussed
choosy, picky
British informal bloody-minded, bolshie, stroppy
North American informal balky
archaic contumacious, froward
rare contrarious, finical



adverb ( rare)
Example sentences
  • The full complement of four cellos, double bass, percussion, three sopranos and the piano duo even hinted at one of those discarded early versions of Stravinsky's difficultly achieved masterpiece.
  • He added that the Government neglects the municipalities and works with them extremely slowly and difficultly.
  • It goes on, more difficultly still, in the attenuated sublimity of a democratic faith, that the after is not the end.


Example sentences
  • Among girls, maternal hostile child-rearing attitudes, role dissatisfaction, and perceived temperamental difficultness of the child were all significant predictors of self-esteem in adolescence.
  • High activity and low sociability are less accepted in girls than in boys, and this may explain why temperamental difficultness predicted low self-esteem among girls only.
  • They pride themselves on their difficultness.


Late Middle English: back-formation from difficulty.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: dif|fi¦cult

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