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a period of difficulties or hardship.
Slang. time actually served in a prison or other penal institution:
He had merely been fined before, but now was sentenced to 90 days’ hard time in the county jail.
give a hard time, Informal. to bother, annoy, or harass:
He gave me a hard time about the money I owe him.

noun phrase

Time actually spent in prison by a sentenced criminal: Hard men are serving hard time 10 miles down the road (1930s+ Underworld)

Related Terms

give someone a hard time
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 ]
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. [ ; early 1900s ]


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