hardball

[hahrd-bawl]
adjective
  1. tough or ruthless: He wasn't ready for the hardball politics of Washington.
  2. outspoken, challenging, or difficult: Reporters asked the president some hardball questions.
Idioms
  1. play hardball, to act or work aggressively, competitively, or ruthlessly, as in business or politics.

Origin of hardball

First recorded in 1825–35; hard + ball1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for hardball

hardball

noun
  1. US and Canadian baseball as distinct from softball
  2. play hardball informal, mainly US and Canadian to act in a ruthless or uncompromising way
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 hardball
n.

1883 as the name of a game, from hard + ball (n.1). The figurative sense of "tough, uncompromising behavior" is from 1973.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper