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

n an effort that is inconvenient

“had difficulty walking”
“finished the test only with great difficulty
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

n the quality of being difficult

“they agreed about the difficulty of the climb”
ease, easiness, simpleness, simplicity
freedom from difficulty or hardship or effort
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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

n 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”
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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

n 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
Great Depression
the economic crisis beginning with the stock market crash in 1929 and continuing through the 1930s
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an unpleasant difficulty
plight, predicament, 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
a 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

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