late 14c., "want of easiness, that quality which makes something laborious or perplexing," from Anglo-French difficulté and directly from Latin difficultatem (nominative difficultas) "difficulty, distress, poverty," from difficilis "hard," from dis- "not, away from" (see dis-) + facilis "easy to do," from facere "to do" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put"). From 1610s as "that which is difficult." Related: Difficulties.
Entries linking to difficulty
word-forming element of Latin origin meaning 1. "lack of, not" (as in dishonest); 2. "opposite of, do the opposite of" (as in disallow); 3. "apart, away" (as in discard), from Old French des- or directly from Latin dis- "apart, asunder, in a different direction, between," figuratively "not, un-," also "exceedingly, utterly." Assimilated as dif- before -f- and to di- before most voiced consonants.
The Latin prefix is from PIE *dis- "apart, asunder" (source also of Old English te-, Old Saxon ti-, Old High German ze-, German zer-). The PIE root is a secondary form of *dwis- and thus is related to Latin bis "twice" (originally *dvis) and to duo, on notion of "two ways, in twain" (hence "apart, asunder").
In classical Latin, dis- paralleled de- and had much the same meaning, but in Late Latin dis- came to be the favored form and this passed into Old French as des-, the form used for compound words formed in Old French, where it increasingly had a privative sense ("not"). In English, many of these words eventually were altered back to dis-, while in French many have been altered back to de-. The usual confusion prevails.
As a living prefix in English, it reverses or negatives what it is affixed to. Sometimes, as in Italian, it is reduced to s- (as in spend, splay, sport, sdain for disdain, and the surnames Spencer and Spence).
*dhē-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to set, put."
It forms all or part of: abdomen; abscond; affair; affect (v.1) "make a mental impression on;" affect (v.2) "make a pretense of;" affection; amplify; anathema; antithesis; apothecary; artifact; artifice; beatific; benefice; beneficence; beneficial; benefit; bibliothec; bodega; boutique; certify; chafe; chauffeur; comfit; condiment; confection; confetti; counterfeit; deed; deem; deface; defeasance; defeat; defect; deficient; difficulty; dignify; discomfit; do (v.); doom; -dom; duma; edifice; edify; efface; effect; efficacious; efficient; epithet; facade; face; facet; facial; -facient; facile; facilitate; facsimile; fact; faction (n.1) "political party;" -faction; factitious; factitive; factor; factory; factotum; faculty; fashion; feasible; feat; feature; feckless; fetish; -fic; fordo; forfeit; -fy; gratify; hacienda; hypothecate; hypothesis; incondite; indeed; infect; justify; malefactor; malfeasance; manufacture; metathesis; misfeasance; modify; mollify; multifarious; notify; nullify; office; officinal; omnifarious; orifice; parenthesis; perfect; petrify; pluperfect; pontifex; prefect; prima facie; proficient; profit; prosthesis; prothesis; purdah; putrefy; qualify; rarefy; recondite; rectify; refectory; sacrifice; salmagundi; samadhi; satisfy; sconce; suffice; sufficient; surface; surfeit; synthesis; tay; ticking (n.); theco-; thematic; theme; thesis; verify.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit dadhati "puts, places;" Avestan dadaiti "he puts;" Old Persian ada "he made;" Hittite dai- "to place;" Greek tithenai "to put, set, place;" Latin facere "to make, do; perform; bring about;" Lithuanian dėti "to put;" Polish dziać się "to be happening;" Russian delat' "to do;" Old High German tuon, German tun, Old English don "to do."
Others are reading
finished the test only with great difficulty
had difficulty walking
they agreed about the difficulty of the climb