75 Synonyms for “Hard”

By Mark Nichol

It’s easy to write about how hard something is, because so many synonyms exist for that vague word and its more formal cousin difficult. Many of these terms are somewhat interchangeable (that’s why they call them synonyms), but even then, the senses are often slightly distinct; do a little more research on usage when you find a promising variation for that abstract (or is it abstruse?) phrasing you’re attempting to finesse.

1. Abstract: disassociation from a practical reference that would aid in comprehension
2. Abstruse: difficult because of technical considerations
3. Arduous: great physical exertion
4. Augean: unpleasantly, overwhelmingly hard (a classical reference to the Augean stables, cleaned by Hercules as one of his legendary twelve labors)
5. Backbreaking: tiring and often dispiriting physical effort
6. Bruising: physically wearing and damaging
7. Brutal: unpleasantly difficult
8. Burdensome: physically or emotionally difficult
9. Challenging: requiring special effort; may have a positive or a negative sense depending on context
10. Complex: difficult because of multiple interrelated factors
11. Complicated: see complex
12. Convoluted: see complex; with an additional connotation of twisting or intertwining
13. Cruel: marked by uncompromising difficulty that disregards the worker’s welfare
14. Daunting: inspiring a feeling of great difficulty
15. Demanding: suggestive of a great commitment of time and effort
16. Distressing: causing emotional anguish
17. Effortful: requiring effort
18. Elusive: difficult to comprehend, or evasive
19. Exacting: requiring meticulous attention to detail, or requiring relentless effort
20. Exhausting: difficult in terms of physical or mental exertion
21. Formidable: discouraging because of expected difficulty; also has a positive connotation of impressiveness
22. Frustrating: producing feelings of hopelessness or defeat
23. Grievous: causing pain or suffering
24. Grim: evidencing unyielding difficulty or severity; can also mean “grim,” “gloomy,” or “sinister”
25. Grueling (also spelled gruelling): requiring unrelenting or extreme effort
26. Hairy: difficult (informal)
27. Harsh: excessively difficult
28. Heavy: involving great effort
29. Herculean: suggestive of great difficulty
30. Inhuman: so difficult as to seem beyond human capability
31. Insoluble: seemingly too difficult to be solved or resolved
32. Intimidating: so difficult that the task or prospect inspires fear or hopelessness
33. Intricate: see complex
34. Involved: see convoluted
35. Knotty: see convoluted
36. Labored: requiring wearying physical or mental exertion
37. Laborious: see labored
38. Merciless: marked by effort that seems to be required with no regard for the welfare of the worker
39. Moiling: requiring much effort
40. Murderous: suggestive of risk of physical or mental harm (informal)
41. Onerous: see burdensome
42. Opaque: difficult because of a lack of clarity or communication
43. Oppressive: harshly difficult
44. Overwhelming: too hard to do or bear without suffering
45. Painful: causing physical or mental discomfort or harm
46. Pick-and-shovel: suggestive of great manual effort
47-48. Problematic/problematical: difficulty in solving a problem
49. Punishing: difficulty heedless of consequences of physical or mental strain
50. Recondite: difficult to comprehend because of obscurity or the need to possess more knowledge
51. Rigid: inflexibly difficult
52. Rigorous: difficulty caused by conditions of inflexibility or requirements of great precision
53. Rugged: suggestive of conditions requiring strength and stamina
54. Serious: requiring a great deal of effort
55. Severe: difficult because of the nature of requirements or constraints or because of the need to expend great effort
56. Spiny: replete with difficulties
57. Sisyphean: suggestive of relentless, repetitive toil (a classical reference to Sisyphus, tormented in Hades by having to repeatedly roll a boulder up a hill, then retrieve it when it rolls down again)
58. Stiff: see rigid
59. Strenuous: see arduous
60. Stressful: so difficult as to cause tension or nervousness
61. Strict: difficult especially because of standards imposed
62. Stringent: see strict
63. Stubborn: persistently difficult
64. Sweaty: suggestive of great physical exertion, causing perspiration
65. Tall: see formidable (informal)
66. Taxing: see burdensome
67. Testing: calling for great effort, as if to test one’s abilities
68. Thorny: see spiny
69. Ticklish: difficult because of the problem’s sensitive nature
70. Tight: hard because of a lack of flexibility
71. Toilsome: see labored
72. Tough: physically or mentally demanding (informal)
73. Tricky: see ticklish
74. Trying: requiring great endurance
75. Uphill: see labored

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7 Responses to “75 Synonyms for “Hard””

  • Mark MacKay


  • Jason

    @Sylvia — maybe you’ve said the word “effortful” to yourself too many times and it’s starting to sound weird. But I guarantee you that “effortful” is a real (despite the red squiggly lines underneath it) and widely used word. You’ll find it in scholarly journals and books of poetry. Just face it, some words are words whether you like the way they sound or not.

  • Sylvia

    “Effortful”? Are you kidding me? You mean “impactful” wasn’t vile enough for you, so you had to scare up that word? It’s not even in the modern parlance. Where did you find “efforfut”? I’m trying to get students to stop using vacuous, meaningless, trendy words, to use words rich in meaning instead. Take that non-word off the list, please. I was going to print out this otherwise wonderful list of synonyms for my class, but I cannot use it with that thing in the middle.

  • Sylvia

    “Effortful”? Are you kidding me? You mean “impactful” wasn’t vile enough for you, so you had to invent another one that’s not even in the popular parlance? I haven’t even heard people saying it, not to mention writing it. I’m trying to get students to stop using vacuous, meaningless, trendy words, but here you are promoting one. Please that that thing off your list.

  • Edgar

    I’d like to thank DailyWritingTips for this daily written approach to the English Language, which like so many other languages are part of one of the most important assets of mankind and that we must preserve.

  • Ndiba Noah Ndifon

    Thank you for making Basic English Grammar a free book. This makes it possible for those of us of the poor Third World to have access to it.

  • Amandah

    I look for synonyms for words because I don’t want to use words like “hard, great, good, so, unfortunately, etc.” over and over again.

    Thanks for the list.

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