Definition of hard in English:

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Pronunciation: /hɑːd/


1Solid, firm, and rigid; not easily broken, bent, or pierced: the slate broke on the hard floor rub the varnish down when it’s hard
More example sentences
  • Some may insist you sleep on mats on hard floors to straighten out the spine, but they are in a minority.
  • The volunteers used to sleep a dozen to a room on thin pallets laid out on the hard floor of their offices.
  • My youngest daughter fell out of her high chair on to a hard floor.
firm, solid, dense, rigid, stiff, resistant, unbreakable, inflexible, unpliable, impenetrable, unyielding, solidified, hardened, compact, compacted, steely, tough, strong, stony, rock-like, flinty, close-packed, compressed, as hard as iron, as hard as stone;
rare adamantine, unmalleable, renitent
1.1(Of a person) not showing any signs of weakness; tough: only a handful are hard enough to join the SAS
More example sentences
  • Just a sniff of weakness and these hard men will grab the opportunity with both hands.
  • If you look at the nature of people involved in gangs in Scotland, a lot of them would be regarded as being very hard people.
  • Many a coach must have asked their resident hard man to successfully confront Johnson, but none have managed it.
1.2(Of prices of shares, commodities, etc.) high and stable; firm.
Example sentences
  • In uncertain times, investors usually prefer the certainty of hard money.
  • It is a company built on hard assets.
  • Since nearly 70% of hard stock is tightly held and not available for sale at the moment, that leaves a very small number of hard shares available.
2Done with a great deal of force or strength: a hard whack
More example sentences
  • Danny had forced a hard kiss onto her roughly and now, he was standing there shocked.
  • It then made several very long hard runs forcing me to give line and then play it back.
  • The attack involved several hard blows to the side of the head and being punched in the face, according to Mr Dixon.
forceful, heavy, strong, sharp, smart, violent, powerful, vigorous, mighty, hefty, tremendous
3Requiring a great deal of endurance or effort: airship-flying was pretty hard work it’s hard for drummers these days [with infinitive]: she found it hard to believe that he could be involved
More example sentences
  • It is not only hard physical work that makes people exhausted, stress has a similar effect.
  • In order to be successful with your career or your hobby, you have to put a lot of effort and hard work into it.
  • Searching for new wrecks requires patience and sometimes hard choices.
arduous, strenuous, tiring, fatiguing, exhausting, wearying, back-breaking, gruelling, heavy, laborious;
difficult, taxing, exacting, testing, challenging, demanding, punishing, tough, formidable, onerous, rigorous, uphill, Herculean
informal murderous, killing, hellish
British informal knackering
rare toilsome, exigent
difficult, puzzling, perplexing, baffling, bewildering, mystifying, knotty, thorny, ticklish, problematic, enigmatic, complicated, complex, intricate, involved, tangled, insoluble, unfathomable, impenetrable, incomprehensible, unanswerable
informal spiny, mind-bending
North American informal gnarly
rare insolvable, wildering
3.1Putting a lot of energy into an activity: he’d been a hard worker all his life everyone has been hard at work
More example sentences
  • A woodpecker had himself a nice fat acorn, and he was hard at work to crack it open.
  • Hermance was a strong willed person and a hard worker with good organizational skills.
  • By the time they got back round the harbour, three men were already hard at work.
diligent, hard-working, industrious, sedulous, assiduous, conscientious, energetic, keen, enthusiastic, zealous, earnest, persevering, persistent, unflagging, untiring, indefatigable;
3.2Difficult to bear; causing suffering: times were hard at the end of the war he’d had a hard life
More example sentences
  • Talya was the most vulnerable and she had a very hard time. She bore the brunt of her mum's anger.
  • It is a very hard and difficult life when a child in the family is autistic.
  • It's great for Roger because he's had a hard time since he suffered a horrendous injury last season.
harsh, grim, difficult, bad, bleak, dire, tough, austere, unpleasant, disagreeable, uncomfortable, intolerable, unendurable, unbearable, insupportable;
straitened, spartan, dark, severe, distressing, painful, awful
3.3Difficult to understand or solve: this is a really hard question
3.4Not showing sympathy or affection; strict: he can be such a hard taskmaster
More example sentences
  • Taylor considers himself to be something of a hard taskmaster but he has been delighted with the response of his players.
  • Not only is it a hard taskmaster, insatiable in the demands it makes on its followers, it often saves the best till last.
  • Gilbert is a hard taskmaster, but Murray certainly knew that before they got together.
strict, harsh, firm, severe, stern, tough, rigorous, demanding, exacting, unkind, unfriendly, unsympathetic, cold, heartless, hard-hearted, cold-hearted, unfeeling, intransigent, unbending, uncompromising, inflexible, intolerant, implacable, stubborn, obdurate, unyielding, unrelenting, unsparing, lacking compassion, grim, ruthless, merciless, oppressive, tyrannical, pitiless, callous, cruel, vicious, unjust, unfair;
standing no nonsense, ruling with a rod of iron
informal hard-boiled
North American informal badass
Australian/New Zealand informal solid
3.5Denoting an extreme or dogmatic faction within a political party: the hard left
More example sentences
  • Independents can be of the anti-war left, but others come from the populist hard right.
  • Thankfully, the moderate wing of the party split from the hard left and the Falklands War took care of the rest.
  • There are local Liberals who say her own hard right faction was to blame.
3.6(Of a season or the weather) severe: it’s been a long, hard winter
More example sentences
  • They say the crows nested twice this year as there will be no food to feed the young next spring due to the hard weather.
  • Those words may have to console the goalkeeper through a long, hard winter.
  • That's far too organised and impractical for us, though, as we have a long hard winter to get through.
bitterly cold, cold, bitter, harsh, severe, extreme, bleak, freezing, icy, icy-cold, arctic, polar, Siberian, glacial
3.7Harsh or unpleasant to the senses: the hard light of morning
More example sentences
  • The church basement is cold and hard morning light breaks through high windows.
  • Looking out over this parched, shimmering landscape in the cold hard light of morning it's a miracle that anything survives here at all.
  • We drive for a while and suddenly there is a loud, hard noise, and people run in all directions.
3.8(Of wine) harsh or sharp to the taste, especially because of tannin.
Example sentences
  • A hard wine has not aged enough to achieve a proper balance.
  • Too much tannin and the wine is hard and earthy.
  • If your wine is too hard, too tannic, too acidic, snap the pouring unit onto your bottle, pour the wine through it, and it will be altered into a better state by the magnets inside.
4(Of information) reliable, especially because based on something true or substantiated: hard facts about the underclass are maddeningly elusive
More example sentences
  • He urged investors to make their decisions based on hard information and not rumors.
  • I, for one, would need a lot more hard information before I could make my mind up about it.
  • There were constant rumours of further waves but there was no hard information as we had no radio or TV.
reliable, definite, true, actual, confirmed, undeniable, indisputable, unquestionable, verifiable;
plain, cold, bare, bold, harsh, unvarnished, unembellished
4.1(Of a subject of study) dealing with precise and verifiable facts: efforts to turn psychology into hard science
More example sentences
  • But how far should we go to smuggle hard subjects into the minds of disaffected youth?
  • With so little good hard science on the BBC it's a pity to see a good chunk of the budget go on something so lightweight.
  • The hard sciences, for example, are at the cutting edge of economic development.
4.2(Of science fiction) scientifically accurate rather than purely fantastic or whimsical: a hard SF novel
More example sentences
  • I do read a lot of sci-fi novels. There are two types: hard sci-fi and soft sci-fi.
  • He has crafted more realistic versions of the cast that are much more appropriate for the series' hard sci-fi background.
  • My scientific background consists of a few relevant Carl Sagan books and hard sci-fi novels.
5Very potent, powerful, or intense, in particular:
5.1Strongly alcoholic; denoting a spirit rather than beer or wine.
Example sentences
  • There are eight others, passing around a bottle of hard liquor.
  • I don't drink hard liquor anymore, it drives me insane with rage and I've ended up in jail too many times.
  • My daughter is not used to hard drink.
alcoholic, strong, intoxicating, inebriating, stiff, potent, spirituous, vinous, intoxicant
5.2(Of a drug) potent and addictive.
Example sentences
  • There is fear its use will spread among the thousands of hard drug addicts in Dublin.
  • We know that many of those addicted to hard drugs commit a large proportion of property crime.
  • We need a quantum leap in treatment and rehabilitation of young hard drug addicts.
addictive, habit-forming, causing dependency;
strong, harmful, narcotic
5.3(Of radiation) highly penetrating.
Example sentences
  • There's no air, there's hard radiation, there's poison in the ground below you and of course, it's between 100 and 150 degrees below in centigrade.
  • I would think you'd need hard radiation to initiate the cascade, but that the decay product would be softer.
  • While travelling through a medium, hard radiation produces charged particles.
5.4(Of pornography) highly obscene and explicit.
Example sentences
  • There is a hard porn channel on the TV in the communal area of the hotel.
  • Like other addictions, addiction to pornography reaches a point when even ‘hard’ pornography is not enough to produce the excitement the addict wants.
  • The film was never shown in Britain, where hard pornography was banned in cinemas, though plenty of people saw it on pirate videos at home.
6(Of water) containing mineral salts that make lathering difficult.
Example sentences
  • The dissolved salts in hard water have a similar effect, so soft water is advised.
  • However, the water was so hard that it could be used only for washing and cleaning purposes.
  • I live in a hard water area and am concerned about the build-up of scale in the central heating system.
7(Of a consonant) pronounced as a velar plosive (as c in cat, g in go).
Example sentences
  • The shorter word with a hard consonant at it's face seemed most fitting.
  • Even their name has no hard consonant sounds.
  • Have you ever noticed how all the truly bigoted expressions are blessed with hard consonants?


1With a great deal of effort: they work hard at school
More example sentences
  • The match was hard fought with chances being missed by both sides.
  • He's been training so hard and we're all really proud of the effort he's making.
  • They worked hard all week and it was a great all-round team effort to win it.
diligently, industriously, assiduously, conscientiously, sedulously, busily, intensely, enthusiastically, energetically, earnestly, persistently, doggedly, steadily, indefatigably, untiringly, all out, with application, with perseverance
informal like mad, like crazy, like billy-o
with difficulty, with effort, after a struggle, painfully, arduously, laboriously
1.1With a great deal of force; violently: it was raining hard
More example sentences
  • When the wind and rain blew hard they were forced to use all their strength just to keep from going overboard.
  • The girl nodded at Simon and punched him so hard he was forced into one of the dirt walls.
  • The car hit the kerb so hard the wheels were ripped off and split in two.
forcefully, forcibly, fiercely, roughly, powerfully, strongly, strenuously, heavily, sharply, vigorously, intensely, energetically, with all one's might, with might and main, with vigour, with force, with great effort
severely, badly, intensely, harshly, acutely, deeply, keenly, seriously, profoundly, violently, forcefully, grievously, gravely
heavily, strongly, intensely, in torrents, in sheets, cats and dogs;
British informal buckets, bucketloads, stair rods
North American informal pitchforks
2So as to be solid or firm: the mortar has set hard
More example sentences
  • There have been nights where there was sweat on my towel which has frozen rock hard while I've been training.
  • This was a material that once it set hard would not soften under heat.
  • He was lying on his back with the rope around his waist stretched tightly to where it disappeared into snow that was now set hard as concrete.
3To the fullest extent possible: put the wheel hard over to starboard
More example sentences
  • He heeled the car hard over to the right.
  • It hit with a deafening roar, punching the ship sideways so violently that it rolled hard over to port.
  • Most drivers were taught to pump the brakes and turn hard to the right or left in order to compensate for skidding.


A road leading down across a foreshore.
Example sentences
  • Where hards form part of a name they often do so in combination with an adjective or a person's name.
  • At the Common Hard he was joined by Mr. Godwin, the friend and associate of his youth.
  • Although The Hard is not a designated town centre it is recognised as a specialist retail and leisure area.



be hard on

1Treat or criticize (someone) severely: you’re being too hard on her
More example sentences
  • Critics have been hard on what they believe to be unnecessary extravagance during a time of war.
  • But Nolan says the critics have been hard on his fellow Liverpudlian.
  • He was a severe looking man who was known to be hard on his students.
2Be difficult for or unfair to: it was hard on her, because she had to walk nearly a mile out of her way
More example sentences
  • That must have been hard on the daughter when the mother is with someone you hate.
  • You went through those couple of months that must have been hard on you and your family.
  • His mother died… that must have been hard on him.
3Be likely to hurt or damage: the monitor flickers, which is hard on the eyes
More example sentences
  • Since the magazine steel is very hard, cutting was hard on tools until they found a shop that could do it with a laser.
  • Now I've changed the colour scheme, since some people mentioned that a white-on-dark design was hard on their eyes.
  • Hanging on to the vine was hard on the hands and often produced blisters, despite the fact that our hands were well hardened with farm work.

be hard put (to it)

[usually with infinitive] Find it very difficult: you’ll be hard put to find a better compromise
More example sentences
  • Angry Christmas shoppers were hard put to find a space to park and ended up using every nook and cranny in the town centre to park their cars.
  • Children from a number of schools turned up in large numbers, and the volunteers were hard put to regulate the enthusiastic visitors.
  • In the second world war, the shortage of paper meant that publishers were hard put to stay in business.

give someone a hard time

informal Deliberately make a situation difficult for someone.
Example sentences
  • When his turn comes, the workers will not give him a hard time or cause him trouble.
  • She treads a very fine line - the boss gives her a hard time and the boys give her a hard time, so she's sometimes in a no-win situation.
  • If the media's giving you a hard time, don't complain about it publicly.

go hard with

dated Turn out to (someone’s) disadvantage: it would go hard with the poor
More example sentences
  • Cutting a helpless throat, even when it belonged to scum like this, went hard with him.
  • And if it goes hard with me, I will stand it, and I will cling to my logic, and I will bear it like a man.
  • One of the things that goes hard with Hetty in the trial is that she at first refuses to give her identity and obdurately denies that she ever had a baby, let alone killed it.

hard and fast

Pronunciation: /ˌhɑːd ən ˈfɑːst/
(Of a rule or a distinction made) fixed and definitive: there are no hard and fast rules about that
More example sentences
  • The programme is mainly aimed at secondary school students, but there are no hard and fast rules and a number of primaries also take part.
  • I don't think there should be any hard and fast rules about this issue.
  • As far as age limits are concerned, there are no hard and fast rules.
definite, fixed, set, strict, rigid, binding, stringent, rigorous, clear-cut, cast-iron, established, inflexible, immutable, unalterable, invariable, unvarying, unchangeable, unchanging, incontestable, incontrovertible, uncompromising

hard as nails

see nail.

hard at it

informal Busily working or occupied: they were hard at it with brooms and mops
More example sentences
  • We're hard at it, and we're making good progress.
  • There are undoubtedly a few Irish players, not to mention the coach himself, who could do without this trip to South Africa given that they've been hard at it now for almost 12 months.
  • On a sunlit morning, she is already hard at it in a corner of the old downtown premises of local fashion designer Tanya Carlson, where she's trying to finish up some work.

hard by

Close to: he lived hard by the cathedral
More example sentences
  • The undertaking establishment was on the Brompton Road hard by the chapel and nearby Trevor Square.
  • Here's a picture of my sunny destination - Tavira, hard by the Spanish border.
  • We lived hard by the factory and our windows gave on the factory yard.
close to, right by, close by, beside, near, near to, nearby, not far from, a short distance from, a step away from, a stone's throw from, on the doorstep of, in the vicinity of, in the neighbourhood of, round the corner from, within easy reach of, adjacent to
informal within spitting distance of, within sniffing distance of, {a hop, skip, and a jump away from}

hard done by

British Harshly or unfairly treated: she would be justified in feeling hard done by
More example sentences
  • Faced with the complex task of establishing which party is telling the truth, family court judges tend to defer to the mother, leaving fathers feeling hard done by and resentful.
  • Several other players can feel hard done by to not make the shortlist but, after such a fine team performance, picking three players out was a near-impossible task.
  • ‘I'm fed up feeling hard done by because we have only ourselves to blame,’ said Williamson.

hard feelings

Pronunciation: /ˌhɑːd ˈfiːlɪŋz/
[usually with negative] Feelings of resentment: there are no hard feelings and we wish him well
More example sentences
  • Fortunately there are absolutely no hard feelings.
  • Sarah had firm ideas of what the garden should be like and challenged Matt over one or two of his ideas, forcing him to the return to the drawing board, but she insisted there were no hard feelings.
  • It was just a short letter telling me there were no hard feelings, that he had nothing against me off the field and that what happened on the field was one thing and what happened off it was another.
resentment, animosity, ill feeling, ill feelings, ill will, bitterness, bad blood, resentfulness, rancour, malice, acrimony, antagonism, antipathy, animus, friction, anger, hostility, hate, hatred

hard going

Difficult to understand or enjoy: the studying is at times hard going
More example sentences
  • It is hard going but it is something I will see through, even if it takes the rest of my life.
  • It's hard going at first - the descriptions are dense, poetic word-paintings - but once you're engaged with the characters you'll be hooked.
  • The article is pretty hard going.

hard hit

Badly affected: Trinidad had been hard hit by falling oil prices
More example sentences
  • Agricultural land is being snapped up by investors, often wealthy farmers from the north of Ireland who have not been as hard hit by beef bans and food scares.
  • Millions of manufacturing jobs have been lost in this country but now the service industry is also being hard hit.
  • Louisiana towns just east of the Texas border were particularly hard hit by the storm surges and flooding.

hard luck (or lines)

British informal Used to express sympathy or commiserations: ironic if you don’t like it then hard luck
More example sentences
  • So Baz, hard luck, maybe better luck next time, but I did say you were backing the wrong team.
  • ‘It is hard luck on those who have not made it but competition for places is very strong and it is a healthy situation to be in,’ said Byas.
  • If the weather should be bad, as it often is, then hard luck; that was your compulsory day off and you can't have it on another day instead.

a hard nut to crack

see nut.
Example sentences
  • Whenever anyone says to me ‘You're a hard nut to crack,’ it just makes me more wary.
  • I know it's going to be a hard nut to crack but we can't just ignore it.
  • Linda is soon to learn that Jennifer is a hard nut to crack.

hard of hearing

Pronunciation: /ˌhɑːd əv ˈhɪərɪŋ/
Not able to hear well.
Example sentences
  • Some of us are hard of hearing and could not hear the officer in the car going by.
  • Judges have ruled that he is hard of hearing rather than deaf, despite medical evidence proving he cannot hear anything.
  • One of the twins was hard of hearing and the other could hear quite well.

hard on (or upon)

Close to; following soon after: hard on the heels of Wimbledon comes the Henley Regatta
More example sentences
  • These excellent results are following hard on the heels of an impressive Oftsed report.
  • The move follows hard on the heels of an acquisition which has seen business gains in the west of Scotland.
  • The General Strike in England was in 1926, when Auden was nineteen, and it was followed hard upon by the Depression.
soon after, hard on the heels of, quickly after, promptly after, shortly after, immediately after, directly after, straight after, right after, a short time after, without delay after

hard up

Pronunciation: /ˌhɑːd ˈʌp/
informal Short of money: I’m too hard up to buy fancy clothes
More example sentences
  • He could be very generous - lending money to hard up locals, or secretly dropping off a carton of groceries at someone's back door.
  • It really worries me when relatives buy you something even though you know they are hard up.
  • I have always been keen to earn money, so while I couldn't say I have ever been really hard up, it's because I have worked to make sure I'm not.
poor, short of money, short of cash, impoverished, impecunious, in financial difficulties, financially embarrassed, financially distressed, in reduced circumstances, in straitened circumstances, unable to make ends meet;
penniless, moneyless, destitute, poverty-stricken, bankrupt, in the red, without a sou, without means of support
informal broke, stony broke, flat broke, bust, on one's beam-ends
British informal skint, cleaned out, strapped for cash, on one's uppers, not having two pennies/farthings to rub together, in Queer Street, without a shot in one's locker, without a brass farthing
North American informal stone broke, without a red cent

the hard way

Through suffering or learning from the unpleasant consequences of mistakes: you’re going to learn the hard way who you’re up against
More example sentences
  • During the last recession, however, everyone learned the hard way that prices could fall.
  • Victory will be earned the hard way, and in the end it may come down to the survival of the fittest.
  • He was very clear in his views and showed that he had learnt the game the hard way.

play hard to get

informal Deliberately adopt an aloof or uninterested attitude, typically in order to make oneself more attractive or interesting.
Example sentences
  • They are playing hard to get with the media, and are keeping us all interested.
  • Sometimes when dates played hard to get, it made the chase more interesting and the inevitable surrender more satisfying.
  • ‘He tried to talk to me for a while after we met, but I was playing hard to get,’ she said with a slight smile.

put the hard word on

Australian /NZ informal Ask a favour of (someone), especially a sexual or financial one.
Example sentences
  • If I put the hard word on any of my students or colleagues I supervise I deserve to be booted out of my job because I am potentially exploiting my authority.
  • If you're looking for a government grant, I'd stop him after the show to put the hard word on him.
  • Then a couple of boozed-up blokes who put the hard word on Jen decide to take you on despite a large spanner in your hand and things really kick off.
20.1Put pressure on (someone).
Example sentences
  • In any event, the Government's going to be putting the hard word on the Labor Council and the public sector unions: there'll be no room for wage increases in this budget cycle.
  • She put the hard word on me to come out later that night to see a gig her boy was performing in.
  • There is a precedent for putting the hard word on a government staffer to give evidence to a Senate committee.



Example sentences
  • These candles are messy, and hardish to use… at least hardish to use without getting it all over everything else around.
  • I polish my pots with a tumbled agate or back of a spoon when the pots are on the hardish side of leather hard and get a nice shine which carries through even after firing.
  • Sometimes I like to pan two mics one hardish left, and one hardish right for a nice stereo spread of the guitar, but this is not such a good idea if you have other guitars or instruments in the same sonic range in the mix, as it can tend to muddy things up too much, and make for less clarity.


Old English hard, heard, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch hard and German hart.

Words that rhyme with hard

Assad, aubade, avant-garde, backyard, ballade, bard, Bernard, bombard, canard, card, charade, chard, couvade, croustade, Cunard, facade, glissade, guard, ill-starred, interlard, lard, Montagnard, nard, pard, petard, pomade, promenade, regard, rodomontade, roulade, saccade, Sade, salade, sard, shard, unmarred, unscarred, yard

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: hard

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