dif·fi·cult | \ˈdi-fi-(ˌ)kəlt \

Definition of difficult 

1 : hard to do, make, or carry out : arduous a difficult climb

2a : hard to deal with, manage, or overcome a difficult child having a difficult time coping with her death

b : hard to understand : puzzling difficult reading found calculus too difficult

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from difficult

difficultly adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for difficult

hard, difficult, arduous mean demanding great exertion or effort. hard implies the opposite of all that is easy. farming is hard work difficult implies the presence of obstacles to be surmounted or puzzles to be resolved and suggests the need of skill or courage. the difficult ascent of the mountain arduous stresses the need of laborious and persevering exertion. the arduous task of rebuilding

Examples of difficult in a Sentence

We were asked lots of difficult questions. I had to make a very difficult decision. We'll be hiking over difficult terrain. It's more difficult than it sounds. I found myself in a difficult position. Some difficult days lie ahead of us. These changes will make life difficult for everyone involved.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Detecting planets around distant stars can be incredibly difficult, as the starlight usually overpowers the much dimmer planet. Loren Grush, The Verge, "Astronomers snap one of the best baby pics yet of a newborn planet," 2 July 2018 And while increasingly difficult to articulate, Key West’s brand of camp reflects Wolkowsky’s understanding — never on the nose, always sideways, a place where anonymity feels like an innate right. Krista Stevens, Longreads, "The Town That Camp Built," 12 July 2018 Creating a star is extremely difficult to do, but Takahashi was well on his way. Justin Barrasso, SI.com, "The Week in Wrestling: Tama Tonga Says Bullet Club Civil War ‘Has Been a Long Time Coming’," 11 July 2018 Now there are only three: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan (where ongoing political conflicts have made eradication efforts difficult). Julia Belluz, Vox, "A vaccine we don’t even use anymore is a reason polio keeps spreading — yes, really," 4 July 2018 But, as NBC News reports, the administration has made this avenue difficult and potentially dangerous by directing immigration authorities to check the legal status of anyone who requests to sponsor migrant children. Sarah Kinosian, Teen Vogue, "Reunification Proves Complicated for Families Separated at the U.S.-Mexico Border," 14 July 2018 Repairing buses and other public transportation has become increasingly difficult with little maintenance and a chronic shortage of spare parts, so residents have started climbing aboard almost anything that runs. Gustavo Ocando Alex, miamiherald, "With little public transportation, Venezuelans resort to dangerous, illegal ‘kennels’ to get around," 12 July 2018 Colts last 10 years: 7-2 (including 2-0 in playoffs) Analysis: Any game against the Patriots is difficult, especially for a Colts team still getting used to a new coaching staff with a lot of new players. Scott Horner, Indianapolis Star, "What you need to know about Colts vs. Patriots," 12 July 2018 The two massive buckles are a bit unwieldy and difficult to work in a hurry. Emily Reed, Outside Online, "Testing OtterBox’s New Yampa Drybag Duffel," 12 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'difficult.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of difficult

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for difficult

Middle English, probably back-formation from difficulte difficulty

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about difficult

Statistics for difficult

Last Updated

14 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for difficult

The first known use of difficult was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for difficult



English Language Learners Definition of difficult

: not easy : requiring much work or skill to do or make

: not easy to deal with or manage

: not willing to help others by changing your behavior : stubborn or unreasonable


dif·fi·cult | \ˈdi-fi-ˌkəlt \

Kids Definition of difficult

1 : not easy : hard to do or make a difficult job

2 : hard to deal with difficult circumstances a difficult child

3 : hard to understand a difficult subject

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on difficult

What made you want to look up difficult? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


lying above or upon

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Roman Mythology Quiz

  • the-triumph-of-venus-by-alessandro-magnasco
  • Boreal comes from the name of the ancient Greek god of which wind?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!