hardscrabble (n.)

in popular use from c. 1826 as a U.S. colloquial name for any barren or impoverished place "where a livelihood may be obtained only under great hardship and difficulty" [OED]; from hard (adj.) + noun from scrabble (v.). Noted in 1813 as a place-name in New York state; first recorded in journals of Lewis and Clark (1804) as the name of a prairie. Perhaps the original notion was "vigorous effort made under great stress," though this sense is recorded slightly later (1812). As an adjective by 1845.

updated on May 23, 2015

Definitions of hardscrabble from WordNet

hardscrabble (adj.)
barely satisfying a lower standard;
the sharecropper's hardscrabble life
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