Definition of hardscrabble in US English:



North American
  • Involving hard work and struggle.

    ‘the film recounts a year in the hardscrabble life of a tenant farmer’
    • ‘Most of them struggle just to lead a hardscrabble life.’
    • ‘The residents' hardscrabble backgrounds vary greatly, but Beckvold said the women seldom pass judgment.’
    • ‘Through the lens of history the emaciated prisoners look barely capable of smiling, but had the Nazi narrative prevailed, the same shot might now suggest weathered pioneers determined to make a life under hardscrabble conditions.’
    • ‘He's been through hard times: his hardscrabble childhood on the veld would make David Copperfield's seem cosseted by comparison.’
    • ‘Brenton Maart, who is working on a public art campaign about AIDS prevention in the rural province of Mpumalanga, contributes five pictures of hardscrabble countryside where poverty and global technology meet.’
    • ‘Many people in the audience were skeptical, because their experience has been that it's a hardscrabble existence.’
    • ‘Tim's slowed up his release schedule the past few years, and others have gone out and done the hardscrabble archival work that he, and he alone, once undertook.’
    • ‘He uses their millions to advertise his hardscrabble origins and oneness with the masses.’
    • ‘But there have always been kids from hardscrabble backgrounds who show academic promise - by nature, by chance, or thanks to the special efforts of parents or other adults.’
    • ‘Pregnancy has the further effect of burnishing Demi's biography: It makes her hardscrabble childhood seem more poignant.’
    • ‘In a sense, Nuñez lives his life on a border, one foot planted in hardscrabble reality, the other in the aspirations of the upper middle class.’
    • ‘As a golden boy, first in his class at West Point, and a Rhodes Scholar, he stood apart from the hardscrabble world of the combat arms.’
    • ‘His disdain is like that of a hardscrabble kid from the projects who works for years to get into Yale - only to watch someone else sail in because his daddy is a rich donor.’
    • ‘Villaraigosa had a hardscrabble youth before turning into an activist for the teachers union and the ACLU.’
    • ‘Rather than leaning on his appealingly gruff Neil Diamond pipes to articulate personal stories of drunkenness and hardscrabble redemption, Bachmann takes a more imaginative approach here.’
    • ‘And at age 29, after seven hardscrabble years as a professional triathlete, Radkewich fully understands his PR responsibilities.’
    • ‘And while today's Yorba Linda is a small town set amid the sprawl of Orange County, the humble home itself still speaks of the Nixon family's rural, hardscrabble life.’
    • ‘Today the Jacksons are so deeply associated with the showbiz slickness of Southern California, it's easy to forget their hardscrabble Rust Belt roots.’
    • ‘Edwards, a wealthy trial lawyer first elected to the Senate in 1998, has built his candidacy around the belief that his hardscrabble upbringing uniquely equips him to understand the struggles of Democratic voters.’
    • ‘He remembered his own hardscrabble youth in Texas and vowed that the poor armadillos he grew up with would have a fighting chance at the American Dream if he could have any say in the matter.’
    • ‘Grasso's hardscrabble early life has, if anything, burnished his reputation on the trading floor - a blue-collar stronghold where college degrees are strictly optional.’
    unproductive, barren, unyielding, unfruitful, uncultivatable
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Early 19th century: originally as a noun in the sense ‘place thought of as the epitome of barrenness’.