[ hahrd-skrab-uh l ]
/ ˈhɑrdˌskræb əl /


providing or yielding meagerly in return for much effort; demanding or unrewarding: the hardscrabble existence of mountainside farmers.

Nearby words

  1. hardouin, jules,
  2. hardpan,
  3. hardrock,
  4. hards,
  5. hardscape,
  6. hardship,
  7. hardstand,
  8. hardstanding,
  9. hardtack,
  10. hardtail

Origin of hardscrabble

An Americanism dating back to 1795–1805; hard + scrabble

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for hardscrabble

British Dictionary definitions for hardscrabble


/ (ˈhɑːdˌskræbəl) /

noun US informal

(modifier) (of a place) difficult to make a living in; barren
great effort made in the face of difficulties
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 hardscrabble



1804, U.S. colloquial, the name of an imaginary barren place "where a livelihood may be obtained only under great hardship and difficulty;" from hard + scrabble. First recorded in journals of Lewis and Clark. Perhaps the original notion is "vigorous effort made under great stress," though this sense is recorded slightly later (1812).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper