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[hahrd-skrab-uh l] /ˈhɑrdˌskræb əl/
providing or yielding meagerly in return for much effort; demanding or unrewarding:
the hardscrabble existence of mountainside farmers.
Origin of hardscrabble
1795-1805, Americanism; hard + scrabble Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for hardscrabble
  • It is remarkable what the residents have created from the hardscrabble plain.
  • Many of them live a hardscrabble existence in places that are hot, wet, often disease-ridden and sometimes dangerous.
  • We can close the gap between the high ground of principle and the hardscrabble of everyday life.
  • Nearly every story about him has alluded to his hardscrabble origins.
  • He was raised, with four siblings, on a hardscrabble farm.
British Dictionary definitions for hardscrabble


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
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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
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