hardscrabble

[hahrd-skrab-uhl]
adjective
providing or yielding meagerly in return for much effort; demanding or unrewarding: the hardscrabble existence of mountainside farmers.

Origin:
1795–1805, Americanism; hard + scrabble

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Collins
World English Dictionary
hardscrabble (ˈhɑːdˌskræbəl)
 
n
1.  (modifier) (of a place) difficult to make a living in; barren
2.  great effort made in the face of difficulties

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Example sentences
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.
Nearly every story about him has alluded to his hardscrabble origins.
He was raised, with four siblings, on a hardscrabble farm.
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