I am looking for an adjective that describes something that has been achieved hardly after a lot of effort through years.

For instance, hardly-achieved experience OR hardly-gained knowledge.

Is there any specific word for that?

Edit: By hardly I meant through hard and laborious work. It's not something rare. Anybody can achieve it, but only after a lot of hard work and effort through years.

  • You should ask this way then - I'm looking for the adjective that describes our achievement through efforts of years
    – Maulik V
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 13:42
  • confusing-words.com/…
    – Maulik V
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 13:51
  • 4
    hardly never means through hard/laborious work/efforts. This question misleads and should be edited.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 13:52
  • @MaulikV edited my question.
    – B Faley
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 14:03
  • 2
    The question should read: hard-achieved and hard-gained. Hardly means not at all; scarcely; very rarely; as in "I hardly ever go to the cinema." and "He's so quiet, he hardly talks"
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 20:35

4 Answers 4


I suggest hard-won, though this is not noticeably any better than hard-gained or hard-earned.

Note however that hardly should not be employed. Hardly usually means “just barely” or “almost not” rather than “with difficulty”. It is therefore conventional with participles to employ hard-, hyphenated, to express the meaning “with difficulty”.

  • hardly in other sense works though. As I said, hardly achieved record will imply to something that's too difficult to achieve. I know hardly creates an ambiguity here and that's why I recommended rarely/barely for that
    – Maulik V
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 13:34
  • @MaulikV "hardly" is not ambiuguous: it only means "barely" and is never used to mean "in a hard way". A "hardly achieved record" would be an unusual way of talking about a record that was only just achieved: for example, shaving one second off the marathon time. Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 17:30
  • In fact "hardly" also means "not truly": "his good reputation is hardly deserved". You can't have a not-achieved record, if it wasn't achieved it's not a record. But otherwise a hardly-achieved record could mean one that in fact was not achieved at all. Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 19:03

There is a commonly used term, hard-earned, to convey this concept

earned or achieved only after a lot of effort

  • -1. I disagree. the difference between hard and hardly lies there! hard-earned money - you do a lot of efforts and earn money. hardly achieved record of diving from 40000 feet - the record that is rarely/barely achieved. Of course, to achieve hardly achieved record, you need to have a hard-work!
    – Maulik V
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 13:13
  • 7
    @MaulikV The word hardly means barely. I do not think that is what the questioner intends.
    – bib
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 13:26
  • Exactly. The record of finishing 100 meters in 6 seconds is barely/hardly achieved by someone. In fact, that's what OP means. I edited the question though.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 13:28
  • 3
    @MaulikV Are you sure? I took OP to mean with difficulty, which seems to suit better with "through years". Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 13:33
  • @StoneyB Yes, you are right, that's what I meant.
    – B Faley
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 13:38

You may be looking for the word painstaking. "Painstaking" usually means "with much time, effort and attention".

For example, "Building a ship was a painstaking endeavour".


I toiled over this answer for quite a bit! I only came up with an idiom.

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