adjective, hard·er, hard·est.

  1. not soft; solid and firm to the touch; unyielding to pressure and impenetrable or almost impenetrable.
  2. firmly formed; tight: a hard knot.
  3. difficult to do or accomplish; fatiguing; troublesome: a hard task.
  4. difficult or troublesome with respect to an action, situation, person, etc.: hard to please; a hard time.
  5. difficult to deal with, manage, control, overcome, or understand: a hard problem.
  6. involving a great deal of effort, energy, or persistence: hard labor; hard study.
  7. performing or carrying on work with great effort, energy, or persistence: a hard worker.
  8. vigorous or violent in force; severe: a hard rain; a hard fall.
  9. bad; unendurable; unbearable: hard luck.
  10. oppressive; harsh; rough: hard treatment.
  11. austere; severe: a hard winter; the hard times of the Great Depression.
  12. harsh or severe in dealing with others: a hard master.
  13. difficult to explain away; undeniable: hard facts.
  14. that can be verified; factual, as distinguished from speculation or hearsay: hard information.
  15. harsh or unfriendly; resentful; severe; bitter: hard feelings; hard words.
  16. of stern judgment or close examination; searching: a hard look.
  17. lacking delicacy or softness; not blurred or diffused; clear and distinct; sharp; harsh: a hard line; a hard, bright light; hard features; a hard face.
  18. (of a photograph) contrasty.
  19. severe or rigorous in terms: a hard bargain.
  20. sternly realistic; dispassionate; unsentimental: a hard, practical man; a hard view of life.
  21. incorrigible; disreputable; tough: a hard character.
  22. Scot. and North England. niggardly; stingy.
  23. in coins or paper money as distinguished from checks, securities, promissory notes, or other negotiable instruments).
  24. (of paper money or a monetary system) supported by sufficient gold reserves and easily convertible into the currency of a foreign nation.
  25. (of money) scarce or available at high interest rates: a hard loan.
  26. denoting assets with intrinsic value, as gold, silver, or diamonds.
  27. (of alcoholic beverages)
    1. containing more than 22.5 percent alcohol by volume, as whiskey and brandy as opposed to beer and wine.
    2. strong because of fermentation; intoxicating: hard cider.
  28. (of wine) tasting excessively of tannin.
  29. (of an illicit narcotic or drug) known to be physically addictive, as opium, morphine, or cocaine.
  30. (of water) containing mineral salts that interfere with the action of soap.
  31. (of bread and baked goods)
    1. having a firm, crisp crust or texture: hard rolls.
    2. stale or tough.
  32. (of a fabric) having relatively little nap; smooth: Silk is a harder fabric than wool or cotton.
  33. (of the landing of a rocket or space vehicle) executed without decelerating: a hard landing on the moon.Compare soft(def 28).
  34. (of a missile base) equipped to launch missiles from underground silos.
  35. (of a missile) capable of being launched from an underground silo.
  36. Military. being underground and strongly protected from nuclear bombardment.
  37. Agriculture. noting wheats with high gluten content, milled for a bread flour as contrasted with pastry flour.
  38. Phonetics.
    1. fortis.
    2. (of c and g) pronounced as (k) in come and (g) in go, rather than as in cent, cello, suspicion, gem, or beige.
    3. (of consonants in Slavic languages) not palatalized.Compare soft(def 26).
  39. (in the making of rope) noting a lay having a considerable angle to the axis of the rope; short.
  40. Physics. (of a beam of particles or photons) having relatively high energy: hard x-rays.Compare soft(def 29).
  41. (of the penis) erect.

adverb, hard·er, hard·est.

  1. with great exertion; with vigor or violence; strenuously: to work hard; to try hard.
  2. earnestly, intently, or critically: to look hard at a thing.
  3. harshly or severely.
  4. so as to be solid, tight, or firm: frozen hard.
  5. with strong force or impact: She tripped and came down hard on her back.
  6. in a deeply affected manner; with genuine sorrow or remorse: She took it very hard when they told her of his death.
  7. closely; immediately: Failure and defeat seemed hard at hand. The decision to ban students from the concerts followed hard on the heels of the riot.
  8. to an unreasonable or extreme degree; excessively; immoderately: He’s hitting the bottle pretty hard.
  9. Nautical. closely, fully, or to the extreme limit: hard aport; hard alee.


  1. Nautical. a firm or paved beach or slope convenient for hauling vessels out of the water.
  2. British.
    1. a firm or solid beach or foreshore.
    2. a firm landing, jetty, or road across or adjoining the foreshore.
  3. British Slang. hard labor.

  1. be hard on, to deal harshly with; be stern: You are being too hard on him.
  2. hard by, in close proximity to; near: The house is hard by the river.
  3. hard of hearing. hearing-impaired.
  4. hard put, in great perplexity or difficulty; at a loss: We were hard put to finish the examination in one hour.
  5. hard up, Informal.
    1. urgently in need of money.
    2. feeling a lack or need: The country is hard up for technicians and doctors.

plural noun

  1. the refuse or coarser parts of flax or hemp, separated in hackling.


  1. firm or rigid; not easily dented, crushed, or pierced
  2. toughened by or as if by physical labour; not soft or smoothhard hands
  3. difficult to do or accomplish; arduousa hard task
  4. difficult to understand or perceivea hard question
  5. showing or requiring considerable physical or mental energy, effort, or applicationhard work; a hard drinker
  6. stern, cold, or intractablea hard judge
  7. exacting; demandinga hard master
  8. harsh; cruela hard fate
  9. inflicting pain, sorrow, distress, or hardshiphard times
  10. tough or adamanta hard man
  11. forceful or violenta hard knock
  12. cool or uncompromisingwe took a long hard look at our profit factor
  13. indisputable; realhard facts
  14. chem (of water) impairing the formation of a lather by soapSee hardness (def. 3)
  15. practical, shrewd, or calculatinghe is a hard man in business
  16. too harsh to be pleasanthard light
    1. (of cash, money, etc) in coin and paper rather than cheques
    2. (of currency) in strong demand, esp as a result of a good balance of payments situation
    3. (of credit) difficult to obtain; tight
  17. (of alcoholic drink) being a spirit rather than a wine, beer, etcthe hard stuff
  18. (of a drug such as heroin, morphine, or cocaine) highly addictiveCompare soft (def. 20)
  19. physics (of radiation, such as gamma rays and X-rays) having high energy and the ability to penetrate solids
  20. physics (of a vacuum) almost complete
  21. mainly US (of goods) durable
  22. short for hard-coreSee hard core (def. 3), hard core (def. 4)
  23. (of news coverage) concentrating on serious stories
  24. phonetics
    1. an older word for fortis
    2. (not in modern technical usage) denoting the consonants c and g in English when they are pronounced as velar stops (k, g)
    3. (of consonants in the Slavonic languages) not palatalized
    1. being heavily fortified and protected
    2. (of nuclear missiles) located underground in massively reinforced silos
  25. politically extremethe hard left
  26. British and NZ informal incorrigible or disreputable (esp in the phrase a hard case)
  27. (of bread, etc) stale and old
  28. a hard nut to crack
    1. a person not easily persuaded or won over
    2. a thing not easily understood
  29. hard by near; close by
  30. hard doer NZ a tough worker at anything
  31. hard done by unfairly or badly treated
  32. hard up informal
    1. in need of money; poor
    2. (foll by for)in great need (of)hard up for suggestions
  33. put the hard word on Australian and NZ informal to ask or demand something from


  1. with great energy, force, or vigourthe team always played hard
  2. as far as possible; all the wayhard left
  3. with application; earnestly or intentlyshe thought hard about the formula
  4. with great intensity, force, or violencehis son’s death hit him hard
  5. (foll by on, upon, by, or after) close; nearhard on his heels
  6. (foll by at) assiduously; devotedly
    1. with effort or difficultytheir victory was hard won
    2. (in combination)hard-earned
  7. slowly and reluctantlyprejudice dies hard
  8. go hard with to cause pain or difficulty to (someone)it will go hard with you if you don’t tell the truth
  9. hard at it working hard
  10. hard put or hard put to it scarcely having the capacity (to do something)he’s hard put to get to work by 9:30


  1. any colorant that produces a harsh coarse appearance
  2. British a roadway across a foreshore
  3. slang hard labour
  4. slang an erection of the penis (esp in the phrase get or have a hard on)

pl n

  1. coarse fibres and other refuse from flax and hemp

Old English heard “solid, firm, not soft,” also “severe, rigorous, cruel,” from Proto-Germanic *hardu- (cf. Old Saxon and Dutch hard, Old Norse harðr “hard,” Old High German harto “extremely, very,” German hart, Gothic hardus “hard”), from PIE *kortu-, (cf. Greek kratos “strength,” kratys “strong”), from root *kar-/*ker- “hard.” Meaning “difficult to do” is from c.1200. The adverb sense was also present in Old English.

Hard of hearing preserves obsolete Middle English sense of “having difficulty in doing something.” Hard liquor is 1879, American English (hard drink is from 1810; hard cider is from 1789), and this probably led to hard drugs (1955). Hard facts is from 1887; hard news is from 1938. Hard copy (as opposed to computer record) is from 1964; hard disk is from 1978. Hard up (1610s) is originally nautical, of steering (slang sense of “short of money” is from 1821), as is hard and fast (1680s), of a ship on shore. Hard times “period of poverty” is from 1705.

Hard money (1706) is specie, as opposed to paper. Hence 19c. U.S. hard (n.) “one who advocates the use of metallic money as the national currency” (1844). To play hard to get is from 1945. Hard rock as a pop music style recorded from 1967.

In addition to the idioms beginning with hard

  • hard act to follow
  • hard and fast
  • hard as nails
  • hard bargain
  • hard cash
  • harden one’s heart
  • hard feelings
  • hard hat
  • hard hit, be
  • hard line
  • hard liquor
  • hard luck
  • hardly ever
  • hard nut to crack
  • hard of hearing
  • hard on
  • hard on someone’s heels
  • hard pressed
  • hard put, be
  • hard row to hoe
  • hard sell
  • hard time
  • hard up
  • hard way, the

also see:

  • between a rock and a hard place
  • cold (hard) cash
  • come down (hard) on
  • die hard
  • drive a (hard) bargain
  • go hard with
  • no hard feelings
  • play hardball
  • play hard to get
  • school of hard knocks
  • tough (hard) row to hoe

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