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school of hard knocks

the experience gained from living, especially from disappointment and hard work, regarded as a means of education:
The only school he ever attended was the school of hard knocks.
Origin of school of hard knocks
1910-15, Americanism Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Idioms and Phrases with school-of-hard-knocks

school of hard knocks

The practical experience of life, including hardship and disappointments. For example, A self-made man, he never went to college but came up through the school of hard knocks. This idiom uses knock, “a blow,” as a metaphor for a setback. [ Mid-1800s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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