Skip to Content

What Does “A Hard Nut To Crack” Mean? When To Say It

What Does “A Hard Nut To Crack” Mean? When To Say It

We have all met a “Tough nut to crack” or heard someone use the phrase in a conversation. But do you know what it means? Or do you know how to start applying it to your vocabulary? In the present article, you will come across the definition (and other tools) that will lead you to a better understanding.

“A hard nut to crack” or “Tough nut to crack” is often used to describe: An issue that is hard to solve. Or a person that is challenging to understand or to get to know. We can say someone is “a hard nut to crack” when a person is not easy going or perceived as difficult.

Origin Of The Phrase

The exact origin of “A hard nut to crack” is somewhat unknown. Yet, people have discovered this is an early metaphoric idiom. It is a reference for a strong nutshell (like a walnut) and how stiff it is when you try to open it. One of the first registers we can find is in a Benjamin Franklin letter in 1745: “Fortified towns are hard nuts to crack, and your teeth are not used to it.” Dickens also said in his very known novel Barnaby Rudge in 1841: “Rather a tough nut to crack in argument, Joe, if anybody was to try and tackle him.”

How People Use The Phrase

As is known, you can use idioms —in this case, “A hard nut to crack”— to prove or communicate with simpler words. At the same time, it is a helping hand at the moment of the understanding process of complex ideas. Idiomatic expressions give a playful and fun experience to what you are reading, and everything sounds better. By adding that fun time, you keep the reader focused and interested. It is important to remember that some idioms are regional, meaning that it adds personality when you apply them to a text. Since idioms can express a lot, sometimes you can set up an opinion depending on the context of your subject.

In this particular case, we use it to state how we feel about something (or someone) by classifying it as tough. In some situations, people think they can use the phrase in academic writing, but it is not recommended since it is an informal method of speaking.


Examples Of The Phrase In A Sentence
  • Karen is a tough nut to crack. I tried to talk and establish a conversation with her, but she avoided me. I wish she was nicer to me.
  • That test was a hard nut to crack even though I spent like three hours studying. I wish I was naturally intelligent.
  • She is a tough nut (to crack). But I think I can convince her to agree to this situation. My brother is excited, and I cannot let him down.
  • This problem might be the hardest nut I had to crack. It took me a long time to achieve it, but I finally did it.
  • Our school system is an incredibly tough nut to crack. A lot of experts tried to improve it last year, but there is still a lot to fix.
  • He is not the most open about his feelings. Usually, people call him a hard nut to crack, and I cannot disagree with them.
  • That CFA exam almost made me cry. It took me six hours to complete everything, and I got a bad grade. What a tough nut to crack.
  • That criminal is a hard nut. The police had to chase him for two hours and then, they finally found him. Some people say he planned this for years.
  • We have been friends since elementary school, and she is still a tough nut to crack. Maybe if we talked more, she would get more comfortable around me because she seems like a nice person.
  • That kid is a hard nut to crack. His mother tried to calm him on the airplane, and he insisted. After three hours of the flight, he started to behave.

What Type Of Phrase Is It?

It is an idiom that is often used as a metaphoric phrase. And it can also be used as an adjective. Below we can see some synonyms of this idiom.


Synonyms Of “A Hard Nut To Crack”

  1. Demanding
  2. Fastidious
  3. Hardship
  4. Hard To Please
  5. Intractable
  6. Unmanageable
  7. Troublemaker
  8. Troublesome
  9. Rigid
  10. Unaccommodating
  11. Difficult
  12. Problematic
  13. Severe
  14. Arduous
  15. Laborious
  16. Back-breaking
  17. Exhausting
  18. Generous
  19. Strenuous
  20. Challenging
  21. Stiff
  22. Fatiguing
  23. Exigent
  24. Enervating
  25. Oil some
  26. Tedious
  27. Knackering
  28. Relentless
  29. Taxing

Examples in sentences

  • That opportunity was extremely demanding. At some point, I had to leave because it was too exigent.
  • That day she had a hard to please behavior. I tried everything, but it was absurd; she did not care.
  • I went through hardship when that happened to me. Even my friends were frightened because of the state of my mental health.
  • William acted fastidiously; there was no way I could stop him.
  • In the end, practicing soccer was a knackering activity. I felt sore after the exercise.
  • He caused a problematic situation by doing that. Liam hopes he changes.
  • Climbing Everest requires tedious practice. It can take from months to years.
  • Olivia maintained a challenging control with her diet. She did not eat fried food for five months.
  • Emma’s heart is unmanageable; she uses an excuse saying that she has «trust issues.»
  • That onerous task gave me a migraine. Can you give me a pill? I need it immediately.


Antonyms Of “A Hard Nut To Crack”

  • Effortless, facile, hasty, easy, child’s play, uncomplicated, untroublesome, simple, quick, doable, undemanding, light, enervated, painless, basic, elementary, cinch, attainable, unambiguous, clear, straightforward, obtainable.

Examples in sentences

  • I thought it was hard, but it surprised me. It was child’s play, after all!
  • When we talk about our feelings, she is straightforward and does not hesitate a bit.
  • Excel is a cinch, but he can’t even use Word.
  • My English teacher, Mary, assigned simple and uncomplicated homework because she said we are great students.
  • Charlotte is untroubled; she is aware that being confident gives you strong power and emotional intelligence.
  • The grade required for passing the semester was too obtainable. Nobody failed on chemistry.
  • My boyfriend is undemanding; he understands I need my space, and he does not bother me when I am busy.
  • The unambiguous acceptance of my community college left me in awe. Also, the dean has a neat organization with everything related to that school.
  • There are a lot of situations in which implementing your second language is attainable.
  • Going at your pace was a basic need for the company. It was not mandatory to have a strict schedule.

Famous Quotes With The Idiom “A Hard Nut To Crack.”

  • “I am a tough nut to crack, and I take it staying always up.” — Bram Stoker
  • “Must is a hard nut to crack, but it has a kernel that tastes like sugar.” — Charles Spurgeon
  • “I think the United States of America is a tough nut to crack. But once you get a good niche, it is an amazing spot for a business person because people are so passionate and lively, and you get one of the most passionate spectators in the world. — Simon Cowell
  • “Its writer intended it to be… a disadvantage or barrier to those who all the time try to look for a turn to offer liberty for people behind the hateful and despicable paths of dictatorship. They knew the susceptibility of the success of breeding tyrants, and they meant it when such re-emerge happened in this fair land, and that started their vocation. They should discover for them at least one tough nut to crack.” — Abraham Lincoln.
  • “If you are desiring or wishing behind closed doors about getting on the Olympics, I can inform you exactly how to achieve it; it only takes two words: constant fascination. The fascination is not the difficult part. But maintaining it sustained is a hard nut to crack. A sincere opponent can make you thrive by sustaining your obsession. Adore your opponent”. — Brad Alan Lewis
  • “It’s been six to seven years since my retirement. Getting back into the work, I discovered that I was not considered an old-fashioned person yet, and it wasn’t a brand new job, it was just kind of a hard nut to crack, in a way”. — Julie London.

Other English Idioms


As we have looked at the phrase “a hard nut to crack,” it is obvious that there is a lot behind it. From the meaning to the origins, the expression continued to teach us a set of new things.

Since the beginning of time, it has been important for everyone to expand their vocabulary.

At the same time, you can now say that someone is “a hard nut to crack,” and when someone asks what it means, you can shock them. Believe it or not, you could even apply it to your daily life.