adjective dif·fi·cult \ ˈdi-fi-(ˌ)kəlt \
|Updated on: 5 Aug 2018

Definition of difficult

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



Examples of difficult in a Sentence

  1. We were asked lots of difficult questions.

  2. I had to make a very difficult decision.

  3. We'll be hiking over difficult terrain.

  4. It's more difficult than it sounds.

  5. I found myself in a difficult position.

  6. Some difficult days lie ahead of us.

  7. These changes will make life difficult for everyone involved.

Recent Examples of difficult from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of difficult

Middle English, probably back-formation from difficulte difficulty

Synonym Discussion of 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

DIFFICULT Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of difficult for English Language Learners

  • : 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

DIFFICULT Defined for Kids


adjective dif·fi·cult \ ˈdi-fi-ˌkəlt \

Definition of difficult for Students

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

Word Root of difficult

The Latin word facere, meaning “to make” or “to do,” and its form factus give us the roots fic, fact, and fect. Words from the Latin facere have something to do with making or doing something. To manufacture is to make goods. This is often done in a factory. Something difficult is hard to do. Anything effective does what it is meant to do.

Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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


excessive admiration or flattery

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet-pasta-spelling-help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!