I have a question about "hard" and "heavy" here:

Before the operation was completed, the prognosis had been gloomy, with Winston Churchill warning the House of Commons on 28 May to expect hard and heavy tidings.

Given the context, "hard and heavy tidings" probably means bad news. But I could not find dictionary definitions for "hard" and "heavy" that would fit this usage. What do native speakers think?

  • 1
    Any dictionary provides definitions for both "hard" and "heavy" which perfectly fit the usage here. Which dictionary did you consult? Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 3:27
  • What P.E. Dant said. hard = difficult, heavy = burdensome, oppressive. You have asked in the past how a word can "hold" a meaning, and now I suppose your question is how can "tidings* be hard and heavy, that is, how can something intangible like "tidings" be described with terms that normally apply to physical objects. Will there be a question about "shady characters"?
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 11:16

2 Answers 2


These are pretty clichéd metaphors: hard news is uncomfortable and difficult to hear, heavy tidings oppress or weigh down your spirit.


StoneyB is correct: these are metaphors more than they are strict definitions. Although, I thought I'd try and provide a bit more context for each word. This is what kind of runs through my head when I consider their meanings in this specific context.


Bad news, by nature, isn't something that we enjoy hearing. The words will probably have a harsh impact on us, and it will be hard to come to terms with them. Thus, we can synonymously describe such tidings as "hard."

In general, it's common for English speakers to describe really bad news as "hard to hear." For example:

John just told me that he lost his job the other day. That's really hard to hear.


One definition of "heavy" (see definition 5.1) is the following:

Mentally oppressive; hard to endure

Thus, "heavy tidings" would be tidings that are mentally oppressive, which sounds like the equivalent of bad news to me.

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