difficult

adjective

dif·​fi·​cult ˈdi-fi-(ˌ)kəlt How to pronounce difficult (audio)
1
: hard to do, make, or carry out : arduous
a difficult climb
2
a
: 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
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

Example Sentences

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 Choosing the right serum for your skin type doesn’t need to be difficult. Nerisha Penrose, ELLE, 22 Nov. 2022 Independent reporting is difficult if not impossible in Iran, and NBC News cannot confirm social media reports or claims by the government or human rights groups. Patrick Smith, NBC News, 21 Nov. 2022 However, even winning a simple majority in the House could be difficult. Haris Alic, Fox News, 21 Nov. 2022 Polls show each president still enjoys relatively high levels of public support, though gauging public opinion is difficult in Russia, where criticism of the governor or the war can lead to prosecution and imprisonment. Francesca Ebel, Washington Post, 21 Nov. 2022 Determining how much cash is left has been difficult too, according to the bankruptcy filings, since FTX didn’t keep an accurate list of its bank accounts. Caitlin Mccabe, WSJ, 21 Nov. 2022 But nailing down that figure has been difficult, thanks to the dizzying complexity of aerosols and Earth’s atmosphere. WIRED, 21 Nov. 2022 In the years shortly before Title 42 began, requesting asylum at ports of entry was already difficult. San Diego Union-Tribune, 20 Nov. 2022 Traveling could be difficult as there may be blowing snow, causing low visibility, NWS said. Kaylee Remington, cleveland, 19 Nov. 2022 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English, probably back-formation from difficulte difficulty

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near difficult

Cite this Entry

“Difficult.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/difficult. Accessed 2 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

difficult

adjective

dif·​fi·​cult ˈdif-i-(ˌ)kəlt How to pronounce difficult (audio)
1
: hard to do, make, or carry out
a difficult climb
2
a
: hard to deal with, manage, or overcome
a difficult child
b
: hard to understand : puzzling
difficult reading
difficultly adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on difficult

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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


Odd Habits and Quirks

  • image1926873504
  • Which of the following best describes an easily irritated person?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ