WORD ORIGIN | IDIOMS noun baseball, as distinguished from softball. adjective tough or ruthless: He wasn't ready for the hardball politics of Washington. outspoken, challenging, or difficult: Reporters asked the president some hardball questions. Idioms play hardball, to act or work aggressively, competitively, or ruthlessly, as in business or politics. Origin of hardball
First recorded in
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019
British Dictionary definitions for play hardball noun US and Canadian baseball as distinct from softball 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
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Word Origin and History for play 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
Idioms and Phrases with play hardball
Act aggressively and ruthlessly, as in
It's only a month before the election, and I'm sure they'll start to play hardball. This term originated in baseball, where it alludes to using the standard ball as opposed to the slightly larger and minimally softer ball of softball. It was transferred to describe aggressive behavior only in the 1970s.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.