difficulty

noun
dif·​fi·​cul·​ty | \ -(ˌ)kəl-tē \
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

Common symptoms include sudden weakness and loss of muscle tone in your arms or legs, as well as difficulty swallowing, facial or eyelid drooping, and slurred speech. Julia Belluz, Vox, "The outbreak of acute flaccid myelitis, the polio-like illness affecting kids: what we know," 30 Oct. 2018 Symptoms include sudden weakness or paralysis in legs and arms, and can include difficulty swallowing, slurred speech, and facial droop. Betsy Mckay, WSJ, "Cases of Rare Neurological Condition Rise in U.S.," 16 Oct. 2018 Regardless of the type of diverticulum, many patients complain of difficulty swallowing, bad breath, and regurgitating food after eating. Colin Huntley, Philly.com, "Medical Mystery: What caused old man's swallowing trouble?," 29 June 2018 And then dysphagia [difficulty swallowing] is a really big one. Katie Heaney, The Cut, "‘Being Believed Is Everything’: What It’s Like Living With a Controversial Diagnosis," 6 June 2018 The difficulties UConn has had getting fans to games has translated into a drop in home-game revenue, which can be crippling for an athletic department at a university that is facing financial hurdles. Kelli Stacy, courant.com, "Historically Low Attendance At UConn Men's Basketball, Football Games As Programs Try To Rebuild," 10 July 2018 One of the big challenges that has prevented a rover from exploring the far side before is the difficulty of making contact with Earth. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "China's Rover Sends Back Pictures From the Far Side of the Moon," 7 Jan. 2019 At times, the game also touches on the difficulties of being able to truly understand the lives of others. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "Red Dead Redemption 2 is the most convincing open-world game ever made," 25 Oct. 2018 The longer-term goals are laudable, but the company seems to seriously underestimate the difficulty of reaching lunar ice, harvesting it under extremely cold conditions, and producing propellant from ice. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "A Japanese company has announced a long-term plan to develop the Moon," 26 Sep. 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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Last Updated

19 Feb 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 \
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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