Other forms: difficulties

A difficulty is anything that gives you a hard or difficult time. If you eat a lot of chips and dip before dinner, you may have some difficulty finishing your meal.

A difficulty is anything that causes problems. Forgetting an answer during a test could be a difficulty. A broken leg is a more painful difficulty. A poor economy is a difficulty, and losing your job is a more personal difficulty. A difficulty is also anything that’s not easy to do, like becoming a doctor or lifting a huge weight. Difficulties are generally serious or hard to overcome. If you’re having difficulty, you’re having troubles.

Definitions of difficulty
  1. noun
    an effort that is inconvenient
    “had difficulty walking”
    “finished the test only with great difficulty
    synonyms: trouble
    see moresee less
    the devil
    something difficult or awkward to do or deal with
    (Yiddish) aggravating trouble
    type of:
    effort, elbow grease, exertion, sweat, travail
    use of physical or mental energy; hard work
  2. noun
    the quality of being difficult
    “they agreed about the difficulty of the climb”
    synonyms: difficultness
    see moresee less
    ease, easiness, simpleness, simplicity
    freedom from difficulty or hardship or effort
    show 14 types...
    hide 14 types...
    the quality of requiring deliberate effort
    asperity, grimness, hardship, rigor, rigorousness, rigour, rigourousness, severeness, severity
    something hard to endure
    hardness, ruggedness
    the quality of being difficult to do
    formidability, toughness
    impressive difficulty
    burdensomeness, heaviness, onerousness, oppressiveness
    unwelcome burdensome difficulty
    niceness, subtlety
    the quality of being difficult to detect or analyze
    inconvenience, troublesomeness, worriment
    a difficulty that causes anxiety
    arduousness, strenuousness
    extreme effortfulness
    laboriousness, operoseness, toilsomeness
    the quality of requiring extended effort
    the quality (as of scenery) being grim and gloomy and forbidding
    awkwardness, cumbersomeness, unwieldiness
    trouble in carrying or managing caused by bulk or shape
    flea bite
    a very minor inconvenience
    fly in the ointment
    an inconvenience that detracts from the usefulness of something
    the quality of being difficult to direct or control by reason of complexity
    type of:
    an essential and distinguishing attribute of something or someone
  3. noun
    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”
    see moresee less
    show 21 types...
    hide 21 types...
    problem, trouble
    a source of difficulty
    (a dated Briticism) a serious difficulty with which one is suddenly faced
    a difficulty that is hard to deal with
    a difficulty or flaw in a plan or operation
    a very disagreeable difficulty
    booby trap, pitfall
    an unforeseen or unexpected or surprising difficulty
    something outstandingly difficult
    balk, baulk, check, deterrent, handicap, hinderance, hindrance, impediment
    something immaterial that interferes with or delays action or progress
    a minor difficulty
    pressure point
    where problems or difficulties are likely to occur
    can of worms
    a source of unpredictable trouble and complexity
    deep water
    serious trouble
    growing pains
    problems that arise in enlarging an enterprise (especially in the early stages)
    trouble that cannot be overcome by a single effort because of its many aspects or its persistent and pervasive quality
    a problem
    albatross, millstone
    (figurative) something that hinders or handicaps
    something that hinders as if with bonds
    diriment impediment
    (canon law) an impediment that invalidates a marriage (such as the existence of a prior marriage)
    something that slows or delays progress
    obstacle, obstruction
    something immaterial that stands in the way and must be circumvented or surmounted
    anything immaterial that severely hinders or confines
    type of:
    cognitive factor
    something immaterial (as a circumstance or influence) that contributes to producing a result
  4. noun
    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
    see moresee less
    show 36 types...
    hide 36 types...
    an unpleasant difficulty
    morass, plight, predicament, quagmire, quandary
    a situation from which extrication is difficult especially an unpleasant or trying one
    a difficult entangling situation
    a painful or straitened circumstance
    fix, hole, jam, kettle of fish, mess, muddle, pickle
    informal terms for a difficult situation
    hard time, rough sledding
    a difficulty that can be overcome with effort
    strain, stress
    difficulty that causes worry or emotional tension
    a difficulty or embarrassment that is hard to extricate yourself from
    job, problem
    a state of difficulty that needs to be resolved
    a complex or critical or unusual difficulty
    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
    a difficult or awkward situation
    a cause for feeling concern
    conflict of interest
    a situation in which a public official's decisions are influenced by the official's personal interests
    an unstable situation of extreme danger or difficulty
    a critical situation that arises because of a shortage (as a shortage of time or money or resources)
    hornet's nest, hornets' nest
    a highly contentious or hazardous situation
    hot potato
    a difficult situation
    how-d'ye-do, how-do-you-do
    an awkward situation
    embroilment, imbroglio
    an intricate and confusing interpersonal or political situation
    Mexican standoff
    a situation in which no one can emerge as a clear winner
    incubus, nightmare
    an oppressive situation resembling a terrifying dream
    no-win situation
    a situation in which a favorable outcome is impossible; you are bound to lose whatever you do
    pass, strait, straits
    a bad or difficult situation or state of affairs
    a temporary condition of torment or suffering
    a situation fraught with difficulties and imponderables
    ticking bomb, time bomb
    a problematic situation that will eventually become dangerous if not addressed
    a dangerous state of affairs; a situation that is a potential source of violence
    an urgent situation calling for prompt action
    dead end, deadlock, impasse, stalemate, standstill
    a situation in which no progress can be made or no advancement is possible
    box, corner
    a predicament from which a skillful or graceful escape is impossible
    hot water
    a dangerous or distressing predicament
    dog's breakfast, dog's dinner
    a poor job; a mess
    race problem
    a social and political problem caused by conflict between races occupying the same or adjacent regions
    balance-of-payments problem
    an economic problem caused by payments for imports being greater than receipts for exports
    a treacherous situation that tends to entrap and destroy
    type of:
    condition, status
    a state at a particular time




Cite this entry
  • MLA
  • APA
  • Chicago

Copy citation
DISCLAIMER: These example sentences appear in various news sources and books to reflect the usage of the word ‘difficulty'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of or its editors. Send us feedback
Word Family

Look up difficulty for the last time

Close your vocabulary gaps with personalized learning that focuses on teaching the words you need to know.

VocabTrainer -'s Vocabulary Trainer