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

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 difficulty, Occhionero said, is that those seeking to place businesses in the area desire sites east of Lander Road, while Mayland is west of Lander. cleveland, 23 Nov. 2021 The difficulty in securing chips has been a major reason the companies have been sputtering. Julia Horowitz, CNN, 19 Nov. 2021 Perhaps nowhere was that difficulty more apparent than in Virginia. New York Times, 17 Nov. 2021 But difficulty is also part of the pleasure of reading McCarthy. Washington Post, 15 Nov. 2021 The first difficulty was to find a village that resembles the original area. Will Tizard, Variety, 4 Nov. 2021 First is its difficulty — a pianist must be able to play this dense, virtuosic work, untangling the various lines that frequently crisscross each other. San Diego Union-Tribune, 1 Nov. 2021 The difficulty however is that there is a duality in the market between those who understand the climate science and those who are focused on the money. Felicia Jackson, Forbes, 29 Oct. 2021 The next difficulty mode is Veteran, and there is a massive spike here. Brittany Vincent, BGR, 22 Oct. 2021

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

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Dictionary Entries Near difficulty

difficultness

difficulty

diffidation

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Last Updated

26 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Difficulty.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/difficulty. Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.

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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.

More from Merriam-Webster on difficulty

Nglish: Translation of difficulty for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of difficulty for Arabic Speakers

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