- providing or yielding meagerly in return for much effort; demanding or unrewarding: the hardscrabble existence of mountainside farmers.
noun US informal
- (modifier) (of a place) difficult to make a living in; barren
- great effort made in the face of difficulties
1804, U.S. colloquial, the name of an imaginary barren place “where a livelihood may be obtained only under great hardship and difficulty;” from hard + scrabble. First recorded in journals of Lewis and Clark. Perhaps the original notion is “vigorous effort made under great stress,” though this sense is recorded slightly later (1812).