difficulty

noun
dif·​fi·​cul·​ty | \ ˈdi-fi-(ˌ)kəl-tē How to pronounce difficulty (audio) \
plural difficulties

Definition of difficulty

1 : the quality or state of being hard to do, deal with, or understand : the quality or state of being difficult underestimated the difficulty of the task has difficulty reading climbs stairs with difficulty
2 : controversy, disagreement unable to resolve their difficulties
3 : objection made no difficulty in granting the request
4 : something difficult : impediment encountering difficulties along the way
5 : embarrassment, trouble usually used in plural financial difficulties

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Examples of difficulty in a Sentence

She underestimated the difficulty of saving so much money. the many difficulties that he encountered on the road from poor orphan to head of a major corporation

Recent Examples on the Web

One of the difficulties with the laboratory analysis of a painting is obtaining samples of a sufficient size. The Economist, "Researchers find a way to use minute samples to detect forged paintings," 8 June 2019 So there’s a lot of fear around being open about the experience of being a Jehovah’s Witness, and also the difficulty of trying to do something with your life after spending a life in something that is essentially a different world. Jacqueline Alnes, Longreads, "‘If Any of My Old Friends Are Reading This, It Is Okay Out Here.’," 8 June 2019 The cannabis commission understands the difficulty of regulating edibles and expects the rules-writing process to last for the rest of this year, said William Tilburg, the commission’s policy director. Doug Donovan, baltimoresun.com, "When are cookies or brownies not 'food?' When they've got marijuana in them, Maryland regulators say," 5 June 2019 The issues come as trade tensions increase, and Chinese social media has been actively discussing the difficulties of traveling to the U.S. for school, work, and tourism under the current administration. Ellen Mcgirt, Fortune, "Life On The Race Beat: RaceAhead," 4 June 2019 Give one assist to Rick Celebrini, the team’s director of sports medicine and performance, and another to Cousins’ family for ushering him through the difficulty of a second rehabilitation. Ron Kroichick, SFChronicle.com, "Warriors’ DeMarcus Cousins cherishes chance to play on NBA’s biggest stage," 4 June 2019 The other has more difficulty with the rebuilding process. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "NASA Is Launching Yeast Into Deep Space," 21 May 2019 But with all of the options comes the difficulty of deciphering what’s legit and what’s not. Brooke Bobb, Vogue, "These 7 Shoppable Instagram Accounts Are For True Vintage Fashion Fans," 17 Apr. 2019 The actress recently opened up about the difficulties of raising a child as a single mother. Jennifer Aldrich, Country Living, "'Blue Bloods' Star Bridget Moynahan Gets Candid About Co-Parenting With Tom Brady," 6 Apr. 2019

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

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First Known Use of difficulty

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for difficulty

Middle English difficulte, borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French difficulté, borrowed from Latin difficultāt-, difficultās, from difficilis "hard to do, troublesome, intractable" (from dif-, probably assimilated form of dis- dis- + facilis "easy, accommodating") + -tāt-, -tās -ty — more at facile

Note: Latin difficultās presumably goes back to *dis-fakli-tāts and follows the same path as the base word, from *faklitāts to attested facultās (see faculty), with regular vowel weakening in a non-initial syllable. The word difficilis is derivationally peculiar, as the prefix dis- is regularly applied only to verbs and is not primarily privative—the expected negative counterpart to facilis should have been *infacilis. It has been hypothesized that dis- in this case is a permutation of *dus-, corresponding to Greek dys- "bad, ill" (see dys-; *dus- is otherwise unattested in Latin), or that difficilis is modeled on dissimilis "unlike" (see dissimilar; the adjective similis "like" takes a range of ordinarily verbal prefixes, perhaps following Greek equivalents). Neither solution is entirely satisfactory.

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Statistics for difficulty

Last Updated

11 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for difficulty

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

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More Definitions for difficulty

difficulty

noun

English Language Learners Definition of difficulty

: the quality of something that makes it hard to do : the difficult nature of something
: something that is not easy to do or to deal with : a difficult situation
: a disagreement in opinion

difficulty

noun
dif·​fi·​cul·​ty | \ ˈdi-fi-ˌkəl-tē How to pronounce difficulty (audio) \
plural difficulties

Kids Definition of difficulty

1 : the state of being hard to do the difficulty of a task
2 : great effort He solved the puzzle with difficulty.
3 : something that makes something hard to do : obstacle She overcame great difficulties to achieve success.
4 : a troublesome situation She saw a way out of the difficulty.

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Comments on difficulty

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