hard knocks

plural noun

Definition of hard knocks

: 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

Their arrival will also shine a spotlight on this historic riverside town, 22 miles west of the British capital, where real estate has struggled to absorb a series of hard knocks, from tax increases to political upheaval. ... Ruth Bloomfield, WSJ, "Harry and Meghan’s Move to the Burbs Shines Spotlight on Windsor," 12 Dec. 2018 Their characters connect in a way that makes sense for two people who’ve seen most of life and know the precise nature and contours of its hard knocks, yet retain just enough idealism to fall in love. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "Robert Redford bids farewell to the silver screen in the pitch-perfect The Old Man & the Gun," 28 Sep. 2018 As a child, the school Collier most remembers is the one of hard knocks. Pam Kragen, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Graduate beats odds, leaves mark on Cal State San Marcos," 18 May 2018 Olson didn't mind taking a few hard knocks himself, either, if that sent the message through. Bruce Pascoe, azcentral, "Arizona unveils statue of former basketball coach Lute Olson," 12 Apr. 2018 Neither, for that matter, were the hard knocks and life experience that inform the best country music. Tom Roland, Billboard, "'Five More Minutes' Could Mean Plenty Of Years For Scotty McCreery," 16 Mar. 2018 Your poker education is usually going to be a school of hard knocks. Chuck Blount, San Antonio Express-News, "Seven ways to hasten the learning curve," 12 Feb. 2018 For a leader familiar with the hard knocks of politics, Whitman has been unafraid to flip-flop. Jen Wieczner, Fortune, "HPE’s Meg Whitman Won’t Be Uber’s CEO. But She Could Be the First Female President," 22 Sep. 2017 And Kelly isn’t trying to escape Saban’s coaching school of hard knocks. Andrew Astleford, ajc, "Why the SEC needs Chip Kelly as soon as possible," 20 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hard knocks.' 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 hard knocks

1758, in the meaning defined above

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Dictionary Entries near hard knocks




hard knocks

hard labor


hard lay

Statistics for hard knocks

Last Updated

23 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for hard knocks

The first known use of hard knocks was in 1758

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Comments on hard knocks

What made you want to look up hard knocks? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a strong desire or propensity

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