hard knocks

plural noun

: rough, unsparing treatment (as in use or in life)
Commercial-strength squares—baked clay, ceramic, vinyl or rubber stand up to hard knocks at home.Apartment Life
especially : difficult or painful experiences or circumstances
This is a testimonial, above all, of hard knocks, from a mother's absence and a family's sacrifice to care for his older, tubercular brother to the betrayal by White House patrons and staff. Roger Morris
often used in the phrase school of hard knocks
Romances with men are the curriculum you'll need to determine what's right for you and what isn't. I'd prefer if you'd learn quickly and easily, rather than at the school of hard knocks. Dave Singleton

Examples of hard knocks in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Here's a look at the films in the series: 'The Donut King' Ted Ngoy's story is one of fate, love, survival, hard knocks and redemption. Detroit Free Press Staff, Detroit Free Press, 20 Apr. 2023 This new work provides the fascinating and useful result that fashioning controllers that work through a sequence of body shapes mimicking those seen in evolution accelerates the learning of new movement tasks and increases robustness to all the hard knocks that life inevitably delivers. Malcolm MacIver, Discover Magazine, 15 Feb. 2011 Outlast’s participants, by contrast, felt more like graduates of the school of hard knocks. Frederick Dreier, Outside Online, 9 Mar. 2023 The school of hard knocks had only begun. Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 Apr. 2022 As the saying goes, the school of hard knocks is the best way to learn. Serenity Gibbons, Forbes, 24 Jan. 2023 In Diper Överlöde, book 17 of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Greg Heffley finds out that the road to fame and glory comes with some hard knocks, according to Kinney’s publicist Audra Boltion-Ortiz. Dallas News, 26 Oct. 2022 Hardy’s pro basketball education, preparing him for this rookie season that certainly will include hard knocks, began well before the Mavericks on draft night acquired his rights from Sacramento for two future second-round picks. Dallas News, 14 Oct. 2022 Related: In a game of really hard knocks, rookies Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong carried the ball for Patriots Agholor, who was lined up in the slot, could be seen looking over to Parker, who was lined up out wide to his left. Tara Sullivan, BostonGlobe.com, 13 Dec. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'hard knocks.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1758, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of hard knocks was in 1758

Dictionary Entries Near hard knocks

Cite this Entry

“Hard knocks.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hard%20knocks. Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

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