rough sledding: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘rough sledding’ mean?

The idiom "rough sledding" means to undergo a difficult or challenging time or situation.

Idiom Explorer


Rough sledding is a challenging situation that requires resilience and perseverance. The phrase originated in the early 20th century in the United States and is used metaphorically to describe any endeavor that is filled with obstacles and hardships. The idiom draws its meaning from the literal act of trying to navigate a snowy or icy terrain using a sled or sleigh. In such conditions, the ride would be bumpy, slow, and arduous, symbolizing the struggles and difficulties one may face in life.

The concept of rough sledding can be applied to various aspects of life, including work, relationships, or personal struggles. It signifies that the path ahead is not smooth or easy, and that tangible effort and resilience will be required to overcome the challenges. In essence, rough sledding captures the essence of resilience, persistence, and determination in the face of adversity.

One related idiom that is often used interchangeably with rough sledding is a "rough trot." Both phrases convey the same idea of facing difficulties and challenges. However, "rough trot" specifically refers to a continuous period of difficult circumstances or bad luck, emphasizing the persisting nature of the challenges. This idiom encapsulates the idea that one may encounter a series of obstacles or hardships over an extended period, making the journey even more challenging.

It was rough sledding trying to solve the problem.

Another related idiom is a "rough patch." This phrase refers to a specific period or phase in life where one encounters difficulties or struggles. It suggests that a person may experience a temporary setback or a series of challenging circumstances that disrupt their usual smooth journey. Riding through a rough patch signifies enduring and persevering through the obstacles until a smoother course is reached.

"ride roughshod over" is another idiom related to rough sledding. This phrase implies that someone is acting aggressively or without consideration for others, disregarding any obstacles or opposition that may arise. It suggests that the person is asserting their power or authority over others, regardless of the challenges or difficulties that may be present. The idiom highlights the disregard for any resistance or obstacles and emphasizes a forceful and dominant approach in navigating through challenges.

The idiom "roughen up" is also related to rough sledding. This phrase suggests that something or someone is becoming more difficult, challenging, or less smooth. It implies that the circumstances or conditions are becoming more arduous, demanding more effort and resilience to navigate through. Roughening up indicates a change in the environment or the situation, signifying a shift towards more challenging conditions.

Another idiom that is linked to rough sledding is being "on the skids." This phrase suggests that someone or something is in decline or facing a period of difficulties or setbacks. It conveys the idea of losing stability or support, as if sliding downhill or losing control. Being on the skids signifies a challenging and precarious situation, where one must navigate through the difficulties in order to regain stability and control.

Rough sledding is an idiom that conveys the notion of facing difficult and challenging situations in life. It requires resilience, persistence, and determination to navigate through the obstacles and hardships. The idiom's usage draws its significance from the literal act of trying to traverse a snowy or icy terrain using a sled. It has become a commonly used metaphor in various contexts to describe different aspects of life. Related idioms, such as the "rough trot," "rough patch," "ride roughshod over," "roughen up," and being "on the skids," provide further insights and nuances into the experience of navigating through challenging circumstances. Overall, understanding and utilizing these idiomatic expressions enhances our understanding and communication of the shared human experience of facing and overcoming hardships.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom "rough sledding" can be used in a sentence:

  1. After losing his job, John experienced rough sledding finding a new one.
  2. The team had a difficult time winning games this season, it was definitely rough sledding for them.
  3. Starting a new business in a competitive market can be rough sledding for entrepreneurs.

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