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[dif-i-kuhlt, -kuh lt] /ˈdɪf ɪˌkʌlt, -kəlt/
not easily or readily done; requiring much labor, skill, or planning to be performed successfully; hard:
a difficult job.
hard to understand or solve:
a difficult problem.
hard to deal with or get on with:
a difficult pupil.
hard to please or satisfy:
a difficult employer.
hard to persuade or induce; stubborn:
a difficult old man.
disadvantageous; trying; hampering:
The operation was performed under the most difficult conditions.
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 forms
difficultly, adverb
nondifficult, adjective
quasi-difficult, adjective
quasi-difficultly, adverb
superdifficult, adjective
superdifficultly, adverb
undifficult, adjective
undifficultly, adverb
1. arduous. See hard. 2. intricate, perplexing, involved, knotty. 4. particular, finical, fussy. 5. obdurate, uncompromising.
1. easy. 2. simple. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for difficult
  • Finding a balance is one of the difficult issues in academia.
  • It was very difficult if you didn't know your way around or didn't have access.
  • Control is difficult, because the fungus can survive in the soil for years without a host.
  • It has been a difficult balancing act, perhaps never more so than this year.
  • You're not the only one making these difficult decisions.
  • The real issue is not easy oil versus difficult oil.
  • As it gets more difficult to hang on economically, old families begin to slip.
  • You can make the puzzle more difficult by increasing the number of pieces.
  • Pasteurized dried egg whites ― once difficult to find ― are available in most supermarkets and do an impressive job.
  • Yet it may still prove difficult to get agreement through the parties' congresses.
British Dictionary definitions for difficult


not easy to do; requiring effort: a difficult job
not easy to understand or solve; intricate: a difficult problem
hard to deal with; troublesome: a difficult child
not easily convinced, pleased, or satisfied: a difficult audience
full of hardships or trials: difficult times ahead
Derived Forms
difficultly, adverb
Word Origin
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
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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
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