If something is a hardship, it causes suffering or unpleasantness. After all the hardship you endured while training for the marathon, you really hope that you’ll do well — or at least finish!
The word hard in hardship is a tip-off to its meaning: something that’s a hardship is hard. It could be hard work that you do for a larger goal — like training for the marathon — or it could be a situation that’s hard to endure. If you lose your job, you could end up experiencing financial hardship. Sometimes a hardship is something that just happens, like the hardship people suffer following a disaster.
n something hard to endure
n something that causes or entails suffering
n a state of misfortune or affliction
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lack of prosperity or happiness or health
a state of extreme (usually irremediable) ruin and misfortune
an extreme condition or state (especially of adversity or disease)
a state of adversity (danger or affliction or need)
a state of great suffering and distress due to adversity
adversity resulting from being made a victim
low-water mark, nadir
an extreme state of adversity; the lowest point of anything
miserableness, misery, wretchedness
a state of ill-being due to affliction or misfortune
extreme distress of body or mind
the final extremity (however unpleasant it may be)
an oppressive condition of physical or mental or social or economic distress
hard or painful trouble or struggle
cross, crown of thorns
any affliction that causes great suffering