hard way, the

By bad or difficult experiences; also, by one's own efforts. For example, Bill found out the hard way that interest on his credit-card debt can mount up fast, or No one can teach you how—you'll just have to learn it the hard way. This expression comes from shooting craps (a dice game), where it refers to making an even-numbered point such as six by throwing doubles (two three's). Since there are more unmatching combinations that can produce the same number (four and two, five and one), the odds against throwing doubles are higher, hence the difficulty. [Early 1900s]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.