difficulty

noun dif·fi·cul·ty \ -(ˌ)kəl-tē \
|Updated on: 9 Jul 2018

Definition of difficulty

plural difficulties
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

Examples of difficulty in a Sentence

  1. She underestimated the difficulty of saving so much money.

  2. the many difficulties that he encountered on the road from poor orphan to head of a major corporation

Recent Examples of difficulty from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of 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.



DIFFICULTY Defined for English Language Learners

difficulty

Definition of difficulty for English Language Learners

  • : 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 Defined for Kids

difficulty

noun dif·fi·cul·ty \ ˈdi-fi-ˌkəl-tē \

Definition of difficulty for Students

plural difficulties
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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