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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
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • At last the train came to a full stop at hardscrabble, about thirty-six miles on the wrong side of Constantinople.

  • “We need not be afraid of hardscrabble winds any more, papa,” said David.

    The Inglises Margaret Murray Robertson
  • "hardscrabble," as he called the four-room log house, was the home of the Grant family for several years.

    Historic Shrines of America John T. (John Thomson) Faris
  • The village of Podunk looks down on the neighboring town of hardscrabble.

    The Galaxy Various
  • Mr. and Mrs. Ronayne and the Doctor rode out soon after dinner, sir, in the direction of hardscrabble.

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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