difficulty


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dif·fi·cul·ty

 (dĭf′ĭ-kŭl′tē, -kəl-)
n. pl. dif·fi·cul·ties
1. The condition or quality of being difficult: the difficulty of a task.
2. Something not easily done, accomplished, comprehended, or solved: We face a difficulty that requires unconventional thinking.
3. often difficulties A troublesome or embarrassing state of affairs, especially of financial affairs: lost his job and found himself in difficulties.
4. A disagreement or dispute: a company trying to settle difficulties with labor.

[Middle English difficulte, from Old French dificulte, from Latin difficultās, from difficilis, difficult : dis-, dis- + facilis, easy; see dhē- in Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: difficulty, hardship, rigor, vicissitude
These nouns denote something that requires great effort to overcome: grappling with financial difficulties; the hardships endured by the settlers; undergoing the rigors of prison; withstood the vicissitudes of an army career.

difficulty

(ˈdɪfɪkəltɪ)
n, pl -ties
1. the state or quality of being difficult
2. a task, problem, etc, that is hard to deal with
3. (often plural) a troublesome or embarrassing situation, esp a financial one
4. a dispute or disagreement
5. (often plural) an objection or obstacle: he always makes difficulties.
6. a trouble or source of trouble; worry
7. lack of ease; awkwardness: he could run only with difficulty.
[C14: from Latin difficultās, from difficilis difficult, from dis- not + facilis easy, facile]

dif•fi•cul•ty

(ˈdɪf ɪˌkʌl ti, -kəl ti)

n., pl. -ties.
1. the fact or condition of being difficult.
2. Often, difficul•ties. an embarrassing situation, esp. of financial affairs.
3. a trouble or struggle.
4. a cause of trouble, struggle, or embarrassment.
5. a disagreement or dispute.
6. reluctance; unwillingness.
7. a demur; objection.
8. something that is hard to do, understand, or surmount; impediment; obstacle.
[1350–1400; Middle English difficulte (< Anglo-French) < Latin difficultās=difficil(is) difficult + -tās -ty2]

Difficulty

 

See Also: FUTILITY, IMPOSSIBILITY

  1. As easy as buying a pair of solid leather shoes for ten dollars —Anon
  2. As easy as combing your hair with a broom —Anon
  3. As easy as doing one thing at a time and never putting off anything till tomorrow that could be done today —Baron Samuel von Puffendorf
  4. As easy as drawing a picture in water —Anon
  5. As easy as eating soup with a fork —Anon
  6. As easy as finding a two-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s east side for $400 a month —Anon

    This is the sort of topical and location-specific comparison that is adapted to the user’s own locale and economic conditions.

  7. As easy as getting rid of cockroaches in a New York apartment —Anon
  8. As easy as making an omelet without eggs —Anon

    A simile probably inspired by the proverb “One can’t expect to make an omelet without breaking eggs.”

  9. As easy as passing a bull in a close —William Mcllvanney
  10. As easy as roller skating on a collapsing sidewalk —Anon
  11. As easy as running with a stitch in your side —Anon
  12. As easy as trying to paint the wind —Anon
  13. As easy as shaving with an axe —Anon
  14. As easy as struggling through a waist-high layer of glue —Anon
  15. As easy as taking a hair out of milk —Babylonian Talmud
  16. As easy to ignore as a Salvation Army drum —William Mcllvanney
  17. As easy to scare Jack Cady [character in novel] as to scare an oak tree —Speer Morgan
  18. As easy as trying to load a thermometer with beads of quicksilver —Bill Pronzini
  19. As easy as trying to nail a glob of mercury —Anon
  20. As easy as trying to open an oyster without a knife —Anon
  21. As easy as trying to participate in your own funeral —Anon
  22. As easy as trying to read a book on the deck of a sinking ship —Anon
  23. As easy as trying to unscramble an egg —Anon

    Another proverb that has become familiar is attributed to J. P. Morgan on the dissolution of the trusts in 1905: “You can’t unscramble eggs.”

  24. As easy as wading in tar —Anon
  25. As easy as walking on one leg —Anon
  26. Chasing a dream, a dream no one else can see or understand, like running after a butterfly across an endless meadow, is extremely difficult —W. P. Kinsella
  27. Controlling the bureaucracy is like nailing Jell-O to the wall —John F. Kennedy
  28. Dealing with him is like dealing with a porcupine in heat —Anon

    The porcupine simile made by an anonymous White House reporter in 1986 referred to deputy chief Richard G. Darmon.

  29. Demanding as a Dickens novel with a cast of hundreds —Ira Wood
  30. Difficult as an elephant trying to pick up a pea —H. G. Wells
  31. Difficult as climbing pinnacles of ice —Elinor Wylie
  32. Difficult as driving a Daimler at top speed on a slick road —Barry Tuckwell, quoted in article by Barbara Jepson, Wall Street Journal, July 1, 1986
  33. (Getting the truth in the New York Post has been as) difficult as finding a good hamburger in Albania —Paul Newman, New York Post, October 14, 1986

    The actor’s simile referred to the paper’s efforts to prove that he is only 5 foot 8 inches tall.

  34. Difficult as getting a concession to put a merry-go-round on the front lawn of the White House —Kenneth L. Roberts

    As true and timely a simile today as when it originated in the early part of the twentieth century.

  35. Difficult as making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear —Anon

    This can be traced to the German proverb “You cannot make a silk purse of a sow’s ear.” A less well-known French version substitutes velvet for the sow’s ear.

  36. Difficult as making dreams come true —Anon
  37. Difficult as putting a bandage on an eel —Anon
  38. Difficult as to sell a ham to a kosher caterer —Elyse Sommer
  39. Difficult as sighting a rifle in the dark with rain falling —Peter Greer, “Christian Science Monitor” radio program, December 31, 1985
  40. Difficult as trying to draw blood from a turnip —French proverb
  41. Difficult as trying to be old and young at the same time —German proverb

    Another proverb that has evolved into simile form, in this instance from “You cannot be old and young at the same time.”

  42. Difficult as trying to run and sit still at the same time —Scotch proverb
  43. Difficult … like trying to play the piano with boxing gloves —William H. Hallhan
  44. Difficult … like swimming upstream in Jell-O —Loren D. Estleman
  45. Difficult … like trying to grab a hold of Jell-O in quicksand —Philip K. Meyer, Eberstadt Fleming executive quoted in New York Times, July 25, 1986, on estimating an oilfield company’s earnings
  46. Difficult … like walking a frisky, 220-pound dog —Henry D. Jacoby, on trying to manage crude oil prices in face of changing market conditions, New York Times, January 26, 1986
  47. Difficult to absorb … like trying to take a sip of water from a fire hose —Anon comment, television news program

    The comment was a response to Uranus probe, January 22, 1987.

  48. Difficult to get as trying to get a pearl out of a lockjawed oyster —Robert Vinez, quoted in Wall Street Journal article on consumer campaign to get Ford to put air bags into all cars, July 3, 1986

    The difficulty in this instance involved getting the air bag out of Ford.

  49. (Satiety is as) difficult to stomach as hunger —Stefan Zweig
  50. Finding a decent, affordable apartment in New York is … like trying to recover a contact lens from a subway platform at rush hour —Michael de Courcy Hinds, New York Times, January 16, 1986
  51. Getting information from him was like squeezing a third cup from a tea bag —Christopher Buckley
  52. Hard as building a wall of sand —Marge Piercy
  53. (It was) hard to do, but quick, like a painful inoculation —Judith Rascoe
  54. Hard to lift as a dead elephant —Raymond Chandler
  55. It [to get woman in story to admit feelings for lover] would be rather like breaking rocks —Laurie Colwin
  56. Laborious as idleness —Louis IV
  57. Life is not an easy thing to embrace, like trying to hug an elephant —Diane Wakoski

    See Also: LIFE

  58. Lurching up those steep stairs was like climbing through a submarine —Scott Spencer
  59. Not like making instant coffee —David Brierley

    In his novel, Skorpion’s Death, Brierly uses the comparison to describe the difficulty of learning how to fly.

  60. A process that could be likened to trying to drain a swimming pool with a soda straw —Thomas J. Knudson, on project to reduce flooding of lake in Utah, New York Times, April 11, 1987
  61. To get a cent out of this woman is like crossing the Red Sea dry-shod —Sholom Aleichem
  62. Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth —Alan Watts
  63. Trying to get information out of Joe was like trying to drag a cat by its tail over a rug —F. van Wyck Mason
  64. Trying to jump-start a business venture over breakfast is like working hard at going to sleep or devoting a year to falling in love —Anon participant at a business networking breakfast, New York Times/Column One, Michael Winerif, February 17, 1987
  65. Walking [while feeling dizzy] was like a journey up the down escalator —Madison Smart Bell
  66. With effort, like rising out of deep water —Elizabeth Spencer

Difficulty

 

(See also PREDICAMENT.)

a hair in the butter An American cowboy expression for a delicate or ticklish situation. The difficulty of picking a single hair out of butter makes this analogy appropriate.

a hard nut to crack A poser, a puzzler, a stumper; a hard question, problem, or undertaking; a difficult person to deal with, a tough cookie; also a tough nut to crack.

You will find Robert Morris a hard nut to crack. (James Payn, The Mystery of Mirbridge, 1888)

hard row to hoe A difficult or uphill task, a long haul, a hard lot, a tough situation; also a long row to hoe. This American expression is an obvious reference to the dispiriting task of hoeing long rows in rocky terrain.

I never opposed Andrew Jackson for the sake of popularity. I knew it was a hard row to hoe, but I stood up to the rack. (David Crockett, An Account of Col Crockett’s Tour to the North and down East, 1835)

have one’s work cut out To be facing a difficult task; about to undertake a demanding responsibility of the sort that will test one’s abilities and resources to the utmost; to have one’s hands full. This common expression is a variation of the earlier cut out work for, meaning simply to prepare work for another, may have a sense that its origins in tailoring; it apparently carried no implications of excessiveness in quantity or difficulty. Perhaps it is the nature of superiors to be exceedingly demanding, or at least for underlings to assume so; in any event, when the expression “changed hands,” so to speak, it took on these added connotations, along with the frequent implication that the person who “has his work cut out for him” has more than he can capably manage.

hold an eel by the tail To try to grasp something slippery and elusive; to try to control an unmanageable situation; to encounter or deal with a deceitful, unreliable person. In use since the early 16th century, this expression exemplifies what any angler knows: holding an eel by the tail is a near impossibility; the squirmy, twisting, slippery creature will wrench itself from the grasp of anyone who attempts the feat.

He may possibly take an eel by the tail in marrying a wife. (Thomas Newte, A Tour in England and Scotland in 1785, 1791)

hot potato A controversial question; an embarrassing situation. This familiar saying is of obvious origin.

The Judge had been distressed when Johnny agreed to take the case, was amazed at first at the way he handled it—hot potato that it was. (Carson McCullers, Clock Without Hands, 1961)

The term is often used in the expression drop like a hot potato, meaning to swiftly rid one-self of any unwanted thing or person.

They dropped him like a hot potato when they learned that he had accepted a place on the Republican Committee of the State. (B. P. Moore, Perley’s Reminiscences, 1886)

sticky wicket A difficult predicament; a perilous plight; an awkward situation requiring delicate, cool-headed treatment. This expression, primarily a British colloquialism, alludes to the sport of cricket and describes the tacky condition of the playing field near the wicket ‘goal’ after a rainstorm. Because of the sponginess and sluggishness of the ground, the ball does not roll and bounce as predictably as on a dry field, and the player must therefore adapt to the situation by being exceptionally accurate and careful. The phrase is often used in expressions such as bat on a sticky wicket, be on a sticky wicket.

difficulty

1. 'difficulty'

A difficulty is a problem.

There are a lot of difficulties that have to be overcome.
The main difficulty is a shortage of time.
2. 'have difficulty'

If you have difficulty doing something or have difficulty in doing something, you are unable to do it easily.

I often have difficulty sleeping.
She had great difficulty in learning to read and write.

Be Careful!
Don't say that someone 'has difficulty to do' something.

ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.difficulty - an effort that is inconvenientdifficulty - an effort that is inconvenient; "I went to a lot of trouble"; "he won without any trouble"; "had difficulty walking"; "finished the test only with great difficulty"
elbow grease, exertion, effort, travail, sweat - use of physical or mental energy; hard work; "he got an A for effort"; "they managed only with great exertion"
the devil - something difficult or awkward to do or deal with; "it will be the devil to solve"
tsuris - (Yiddish) aggravating trouble; "the frustrating tsuris he subjected himself to"
2.difficulty - a factor causing trouble in achieving a positive result or tending to produce a negative result; "serious difficulties were encountered in obtaining a pure reagent"
cognitive factor - something immaterial (as a circumstance or influence) that contributes to producing a result
trouble, problem - a source of difficulty; "one trouble after another delayed the job"; "what's the problem?"
facer - (a dated Briticism) a serious difficulty with which one is suddenly faced
killer - a difficulty that is hard to deal with; "that exam was a real killer"
kink - a difficulty or flaw in a plan or operation; "there are still a few kinks to iron out"
pisser - a very disagreeable difficulty
pitfall, booby trap - an unforeseen or unexpected or surprising difficulty
snorter - something outstandingly difficult; "the problem was a real snorter"
deterrent, hinderance, hindrance, impediment, balk, baulk, handicap, check - something immaterial that interferes with or delays action or progress
wrinkle - a minor difficulty; "they finally have the wrinkles pretty well ironed out"
3.difficulty - a condition or state of affairs almost beyond one's ability to deal with and requiring great effort to bear or overcome; "grappling with financial difficulties"
condition, status - a state at a particular time; "a condition (or state) of disrepair"; "the current status of the arms negotiations"
bitch - an unpleasant difficulty; "this problem is a real bitch"
plight, predicament, quandary - a situation from which extrication is difficult especially an unpleasant or trying one; "finds himself in a most awkward predicament"; "the woeful plight of homeless people"
rattrap - a difficult entangling situation
pinch - a painful or straitened circumstance; "the pinch of the recession"
kettle of fish, fix, jam, mess, muddle, pickle, hole - informal terms for a difficult situation; "he got into a terrible fix"; "he made a muddle of his marriage"
hard time, rough sledding - a difficulty that can be overcome with effort; "we had a hard time getting here"; "analysts predicted rough sledding for handset makers"
strain, stress - difficulty that causes worry or emotional tension; "she endured the stresses and strains of life"; "he presided over the economy during the period of the greatest stress and danger"- R.J.Samuelson
mire - a difficulty or embarrassment that is hard to extricate yourself from; "the country is still trying to climb out of the mire left by its previous president"; "caught in the mire of poverty"
problem, job - a state of difficulty that needs to be resolved; "she and her husband are having problems"; "it is always a job to contact him"; "urban problems such as traffic congestion and smog"
situation - a complex or critical or unusual difficulty; "the dangerous situation developed suddenly"; "that's quite a situation"; "no human situation is simple"
urinary hesitancy - difficulty in beginning the flow of urine; associated with prostate enlargement in men and with narrowing of the urethral opening in women; may be caused by emotional stress in either men or women
wall - a difficult or awkward situation; "his back was to the wall"; "competition was pushing them to the wall"
4.difficulty - the quality of being difficult; "they agreed about the difficulty of the climb"
effortfulness - the quality of requiring deliberate effort
asperity, rigor, rigorousness, rigourousness, severeness, severity, rigour, grimness, hardship - something hard to endure; "the asperity of northern winters"
ruggedness, hardness - the quality of being difficult to do; "he assigned a series of problems of increasing hardness"; "the ruggedness of his exams caused half the class to fail"
formidability, toughness - impressive difficulty
burdensomeness, onerousness, oppressiveness, heaviness - unwelcome burdensome difficulty
subtlety, niceness - the quality of being difficult to detect or analyze; "you had to admire the subtlety of the distinctions he drew"
troublesomeness, worriment, inconvenience - a difficulty that causes anxiety
quality - an essential and distinguishing attribute of something or someone; "the quality of mercy is not strained"--Shakespeare
ease, easiness, simpleness, simplicity - freedom from difficulty or hardship or effort; "he rose through the ranks with apparent ease"; "they put it into containers for ease of transportation"; "the very easiness of the deed held her back"

difficulty

noun
1. problem, trouble, obstacle, hurdle, dilemma, hazard, complication, hassle (informal), snag, uphill (S. African), predicament, pitfall, stumbling block, impediment, hindrance, tribulation, quandary, can of worms (informal), point at issue, disputed point There is only one difficulty. The hardest thing is to leave.
2. hardship, labour, pain, strain, awkwardness, painfulness, strenuousness, arduousness, laboriousness The injured man mounted his horse with difficulty.
3. complexity, involvement, complication, intricacy, hardness, convolution, difficultness, abstruseness questions arranged in no particular order of difficulty
in difficulty or difficulties in trouble, in distress, in hot water (informal), in a mess, in deep water, in a spot (informal), in a fix (informal), in a quandary, in a dilemma, in embarrassment, in a jam (informal), in dire straits, in a pickle (informal), in a tight spot, in perplexity, in a predicament rumours spread about banks being in difficulty
Quotations
"Difficulties are things that show what men are" [Epictetus Discourses]
"Difficulty gives all things their estimation" [Montaigne Essays]

difficulty

noun
1. Something that obstructs progress and requires great effort to overcome:
asperity, hardship, rigor, vicissitude (often used in plural).
Idioms: a hard nut to crack, a hard row to hoe, heavy sledding.
2. A difficult, often embarrassing situation or condition:
Informal: bind, pickle, spot.
4. A discussion, often heated, in which a difference of opinion is expressed:
Informal: hassle, rhubarb, tangle.
Translations
صُعُوبَةصُعوبَهضيق، وَرْطَهعَقَبَه، عائِق
obtížobtížnostpotížtěžká situacetěžkosti
vanskelighedbesværi nødi pengevanskeligheder
vaikeushankaluus
कठिनाईमुश्किल
teškoća
erfiîleikar, vandamálkröggur, fjárhagserfiîleikarvandi, erfiîleikar
困難
어려움
težava
svårighet
ความยากลำบาก
مشکل
sự khó khăn

difficulty

[ˈdɪfɪkəltɪ] N
1. (= hardness) → dificultad f
to have difficulty (in) doing sthtener dificultades para hacer algo, resultarle difícil a algn hacer algo
he has difficulty (in) walkingtiene dificultades para andar, le resulta difícil andar
I had no difficulty finding the houseno tuve problemas para encontrar la casa, no me resultó difícil encontrar la casa
with difficultycon dificultad
with great difficultycon gran dificultad
with the greatest difficultya duras penas
2. (= problem) → problema m, dificultad f
to get into difficulty or difficulties [person] (gen) → meterse en problemas or apuros; (while swimming) → empezar a tener problemas; [ship] → empezar a peligrar
to have difficulties with sthtener problemas con algo
to be in difficulties or difficultyestar teniendo problemas
they are in financial difficultiestienen problemas económicos, están pasando dificultades económicas
to make difficulties for sbcrear problemas a algn
see also learning, run into

difficulty

[ˈdɪfɪkəlti] n
(= problem) → difficulté f
with difficulty → avec difficulté
He stood up with difficulty → Il se leva avec difficulté.
without difficulty → sans difficulté
to have difficulties with sth → avoir des ennuis avec qch, avoir des problèmes avec qch
to be in difficulty, to be in difficulties (= have problems) → avoir des difficultés, avoir des problèmes
to have difficulty doing sth → avoir du mal à faire qch
(= hardness) [question, task] → difficulté f

difficulty

nSchwierigkeit f; with/without difficultymit/ohne Schwierigkeiten; he had difficulty (in) setting up in businesses fiel ihm schwer or nicht leicht, sich selbstständig zu machen; she had great difficulty (in) breathingsie konnte kaum atmen; there was some difficulty (in) finding himes war schwierig or nicht leicht, ihn zu finden; the difficulty is (in) choosing or to choosedie Wahl ist nicht leicht; they hadn’t appreciated the difficulty of finding somewhere to livesie hatten nicht bedacht, wie schwierig es sein würde, eine Wohnung zu finden; in difficulty or difficultiesin Schwierigkeiten; to get into difficultiesin Schwierigkeiten geraten; to get out of difficultiesSchwierigkeiten überwinden

difficulty

[ˈdɪfɪkltɪ] ndifficoltà f inv
he has difficulty in walking/breathing → ha difficoltà a camminare/di respirazione
to have difficulties with (police, landlord) → avere noie con
to get o.s. into difficulty → mettersi nei guai
to be in difficulty or difficulties → essere or trovarsi in difficoltà
to be in (financial) difficulties → avere delle difficoltà economiche

difficult

(ˈdifikəlt) adjective
1. hard to do or understand; not easy. difficult sums; a difficult task; It is difficult to know what to do for the best.
2. hard to deal with or needing to be treated etc in a special way. a difficult child.
ˈdifficultyplural ˈdifficulties noun
1. the state or quality of being hard (to do) or not easy. I have difficulty in understanding him.
2. an obstacle or objection. He has a habit of foreseeing difficulties.
3. (especially in plural) trouble, especially money trouble. The firm was in difficulties.

difficulty

صُعُوبَة obtížnost vanskelighed Schwierigkeit δυσκολία dificultad vaikeus difficulté teškoća difficoltà 困難 어려움 moeilijkheid vanskelighet trudność dificuldade сложность svårighet ความยากลำบาก güçlük sự khó khăn 困难

difficulty

n. dificultad; penalidad; obstáculo.

difficulty

n dificultad f
References in classic literature ?
Beth was worried by the confusion of her closet and the difficulty of learning three or four songs at once, and Amy deeply regretted the damage done her frock, for Katy Brown's party was to be the next day and now like Flora McFlimsey, she had `nothing to wear'.
THE WRITER, an old man with a white mustache, had some difficulty in getting into bed.
We will have little difficulty in getting to Honduras, as there are fruit steamers frequently sailing.
He could scarcely read, wrote even his name with difficulty, and he had a violent temper which sometimes made him behave like a crazy man--tore him all to pieces and actually made him ill.
Their freedom of expression was at first incomprehensible to her, though she had no difficulty in reconciling it with a lofty chastity which in the Creole woman seems to be inborn and unmistakable.
They ascribe the known difficulty one people have to understand another to corruptions and dialects.
Though we defended ourselves, and repulsed the enemy, yet this unhappy affair scattered our cattle, brought us into extreme difficulty, and so discouraged the whole company, that we retreated forty miles, to the settlement on Clench river.
First, every drawer in the tall, old-fashioned bureau is to be opened, with difficulty, and with a succession of spasmodic jerks then, all must close again, with the same fidgety reluctance.
A soldier -- New England's most distinguished soldier -- he stood firmly on the pedestal of his gallant services; and, himself secure in the wise liberality of the successive administrations through which he had held office, he had been the safety of his subordinates in many an hour of danger and heart-quake General Miller was radically conservative; a man over whose kindly nature habit had no slight influence; attaching himself strongly to familiar faces, and with difficulty moved to change, even when change might have brought unquestionable improvement.
But, after some difficulty having opened his bag, he commenced fumbling in it, and presently pulled out a sort of tomahawk, and a seal-skin wallet with the hair on.
He had no whip, which seemed to trouble him; but my pace soon cured that difficulty, and he found the best thing he could do was to stick to the saddle and hold me in, which he did manfully.
They would no sooner escape, as by a miracle, from one difficulty, than a new one would come into view.