hardball

[hahrd-bawl]
noun
1.
baseball, as distinguished from softball.
adjective
2.
tough or ruthless: He wasn't ready for the hardball politics of Washington.
3.
outspoken, challenging, or difficult: Reporters asked the president some hardball questions.
Idioms
4.
play hardball, to act or work aggressively, competitively, or ruthlessly, as in business or politics.

Origin:
1825–35; hard + ball1

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
hardball (ˈhɑːdbɔːl)
 
n
1.  (US), (Canadian) baseball as distinct from softball
2.  informal chiefly (US), (Canadian) play hardball to act in a ruthless or uncompromising way

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Example sentences
Playing hardball often works in insurance, but it has drawbacks elsewhere.
They did not initiate this game of hardball, they say, but they are happy to
  play it.
His fervent pursuit of hardball education continues to complement his raw gifts.
In order to get him to relent, the publisher had to both pay a premium price
  and play a little hardball.
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