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a hard time
1. Grief or frustration intentionally inflicted on one by another, in the form of teasing, bullying, or other ill treatment. The school bully started giving the new kid a hard time until the teacher sent him to the principal's office.
2. Difficulty or a source of struggle. Often used in the phrase "have a hard time." I'm really having a hard time in math this semester—I need to get a tutor.
Time spent in a prison, often implied to be as unpleasant as possible. When we catch these criminals, they're going to be doing at least 20 years of hard time. Solitary confinement is the hardest time you can do.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
1. Also, hard times. A period of difficulty or hardship, especially financial hardship. For example, Since Mom died, Christmas has been a hard time for Dad, or It's been hard times for both of them since they split up. It is also put as have a hard time, as in I'm having a hard time finishing this book. Charles Dickens used Hard Times as the title of a novel about poverty (1854). A more recent version is have a time of it, which despite its ambiguity (not specifying either "good" or "bad") nearly always means "experiencing difficulty"; for example, We had quite a time of it in that hurricane. [Late 1300s]
2. give someone a hard time. Annoy or harass someone. For example, Don't let him give you a hard time; he's often late himself. [Colloquial; early 1900s]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
1. n. a difficult experience. I had a hard time at the doctor’s office.
2. n. a prison sentence. (Underworld.) How much hard time does he have behind him?
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.