[dif-i-kuhlt, -kuhlt]
See more synonyms for difficult on Thesaurus.com
  1. not easily or readily done; requiring much labor, skill, or planning to be performed successfully; hard: a difficult job.
  2. hard to understand or solve: a difficult problem.
  3. hard to deal with or get on with: a difficult pupil.
  4. hard to please or satisfy: a difficult employer.
  5. hard to persuade or induce; stubborn: a difficult old man.
  6. disadvantageous; trying; hampering: The operation was performed under the most difficult conditions.
  7. fraught with hardship, especially financial hardship: We saw some difficult times during the depression years.

Origin of difficult

1350–1400; Middle English, back formation from difficulty
Related formsdif·fi·cult·ly, adverbnon·dif·fi·cult, adjectivequa·si-dif·fi·cult, adjectivequa·si-dif·fi·cult·ly, adverbsu·per·dif·fi·cult, adjectivesu·per·dif·fi·cult·ly, adverbun·dif·fi·cult, adjectiveun·dif·fi·cult·ly, adverb

Synonyms for difficult

See more synonyms for on Thesaurus.com
1. arduous. See hard. 2. intricate, perplexing, involved, knotty. 4. particular, finical, fussy. 5. obdurate, uncompromising.

Antonyms for difficult

1. easy. 2. simple.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for difficult

Contemporary Examples of difficult

Historical Examples of difficult

  • But when the morning came he found the task a difficult one to enter upon.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • Philippe acquainted her with the joys and griefs of his difficult profession.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • At the moment of parting he began to realize that he had undertaken a difficult task.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • The ablutionary fluid is most difficult to be had in places where water is abundant.

  • "I think you would find it a difficult undertaking," he said.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

British Dictionary definitions for difficult


  1. not easy to do; requiring efforta difficult job
  2. not easy to understand or solve; intricatea difficult problem
  3. hard to deal with; troublesomea difficult child
  4. not easily convinced, pleased, or satisfieda difficult audience
  5. full of hardships or trialsdifficult times ahead
Derived Formsdifficultly, adverb

Word Origin for difficult

C14: back formation from difficulty
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for difficult

c.1400, apparently a back-formation from difficulty. French has difficile, Latin difficilis. Of persons, "hard to please," from 1580s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper