hard up


hard up (adjective)
/hɑrd ʌp/


  • in need of money or experiencing financial difficulties.
  • impoverished.
  • experiencing a shortage of something valuable.
  • in a difficult or trying situation.
  • in a state of distress.
  • often used humorously or informally to describe a lack of romantic partners.

Example Sentences

  1. After losing his job, he found himself hard up and unable to pay the bills.
  2. She’s a bit hard up at the moment, so she’s looking for extra work.
  3. He’s been so hard up for dates that he’s started using online dating apps.
  4. Sophia joked that she must be really hard up to consider going out with David.
  5. The farmers are hard up due to the prolonged drought affecting their crops.
  6. She felt hard up after her car broke down on the way to an important meeting.

Origin and History

The phrase “hard up” originally comes from nautical terminology. In the days of sailing ships, to be “hard up” referred to a specific position of the ship’s helm. When the helm was turned hard upwind, it meant the vessel was steered away from the wind. This maneuver was typically employed to navigate away from difficult wind conditions. Over time, this term began to metaphorically describe situations where individuals or groups had to navigate away from their own “rough winds,” especially in financial terms.

The nautical origins of “hard up” eventually permeated everyday language. By the early 19th century, the term had evolved to describe people who were in need or impoverished. It captured the sense of struggling against adverse conditions, much like a ship against strong winds. The idiom thus began to be used more broadly to signify any form of need or deficiency.

Today, “hard up” is primarily understood to mean being short on money. For instance, someone might say, “I’m hard up for cash this month,” indicating a lack of financial resources. However, the term can also be stretched to describe a lack of other necessities or even emotional or social needs. For example, one might be “hard up for time” or “hard up for friends.”

In slang, “hard up” can also mean intoxicated, though this usage is less common.

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