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

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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


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


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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a downward inclination or slope

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