If you want to play hardball, you’re not messing around. You’re a shrewd negotiator and you’ll do anything to get what you want. Or maybe you just want to play baseball, which is also known as hardball.

You can use the slightly old-fashioned hardball for this all-American sport, particularly to distinguish it from softball, which is played with similar rules but a larger, slightly softer ball. You can also use the word informally to mean "ruthless methods." So if a businessperson, politician, or journalist plays hardball, they’re being super competitive and try to win at all costs.

Primary Meanings of hardball

baseball as distinguished from softball
a no-nonsense attitude in business or politics
Full Definitions of hardball

n baseball as distinguished from softball

softball, softball game
a game closely resembling baseball that is played on a smaller diamond and with a ball that is larger and softer
Type of:
baseball, baseball game
a ball game played with a bat and ball between two teams of nine players; teams take turns at bat trying to score runs

n a no-nonsense attitude in business or politics

“they play hardball in the Senate”
Type of:
attitude, mental attitude
a complex mental state involving beliefs and feelings and values and dispositions to act in certain ways

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