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

Climbs could take one hour or all day, depending on the difficulty level. Jen Murphy, WSJ, "A Climber Still Seeking New Peaks Later in Life," 26 Jan. 2019 One group played the standard adaptive version of the game, where the difficulty level increased as their skill level did. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Study: Tetris is a great distraction for easing an anxious mind," 2 Nov. 2018 Intel officials acknowledged the extreme difficulty of this lofty goal. Gordon Mah Ung, PCWorld, "Intel hopes to clean up toxic speech in game chat with AI and machine learning," 20 Mar. 2019 The difficulty of securing sites and the past successes in infecting big-name sites is encouraging more and more criminal groups to enter the booming field. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "E-commerce site is infected not by one, but two card skimmers," 20 Nov. 2018 While the difficulties of building such an elevator are astronomical, the potential for financial benefits are equally large. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Space Elevators Getting First Test in Space," 4 Sep. 2018 The losing and the difficulties are always frustrating and mind-boggling and can drag you down a little bit. Paul Sullivan, chicagotribune.com, "Astros manager A.J. Hinch sees brighter days for White Sox, and Rick Renteria's positivity is a big reason," 7 July 2018 The difficulty is determining whether those people are actually homeless. Michael Smolens, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Progress is hard to come by in San Diego's fight against homelessness," 22 June 2018 The difficulties of dividing the assets and duties held by present-day California in three would be massive. Michael Hiltzik, latimes.com, "Venture investor Tim Draper is back with a pointless plan to split California three ways," 22 June 2018

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

23 Apr 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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