hardscrabble


adjective

  1. providing or yielding meagerly in return for much effort; demanding or unrewarding: the hardscrabble existence of mountainside farmers.

noun US informal

  1. (modifier) (of a place) difficult to make a living in; barren
  2. great effort made in the face of difficulties
adj.

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).

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