One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1A harsh or unkind word or (in early use) utterance; an insult; a reprimand. In later use only in plural: words indicative or expressive of hostility or dispute.
2A word which is difficult to understand or spell. In early use also: †a statement which is difficult to interpret (obsolete).
3Originally Irish English; later also Australian. A hint, a tip-off; a piece of inside information; a password. Now rare (chiefly in historical contexts).
4Australian and NZ informal. An importunate request, especially for money. Especially in "to put the hard word on": to ask insistently for a favour or a loan; (sometimes) specifically to proposition sexually.
Middle English; earliest use found in Soul's Address to Body. From hard + word.
hard word/hɑːd ˈwəːd/
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