To be specific, I am talking about "easily" as in requiring little effort. "Hardly" obviously has a meaning that's quite different from "with much effort", although quite often things that require much effort are also hardly doable, but there are differences, e.g.

With much effort, they won.

seems, at least to me, to be quite different from

They hardly won.

Is there a word that is an antonym of "easily", and means "with much effort" or "with difficulty"?

  • They barely won. This doesn't speak to effort, however.
    – jxh
    Mar 1, 2017 at 13:34
  • I go for awkwardly. Something done awkwardly is done with great difficulty--clumsily, requiring more effort than a reasonably skilled person would expend, done with a lack of economy in motion. I know that the denotation of "awkward" is skewed toward that which is clumsy; is done in a stilted manner or spastically; and characterized by a lumbering motion; however, all the above seem to be part and parcel of awkwardness, or doing something awkwardly. Mar 1, 2017 at 17:34
  • "they somehow managed to win" would be one way we put that sort of thing. "manged to win" could imply they had the aid of some luck in the matter against another team that played harder, but if it were mostly luck against a team they played worse than you'd say "lucky to win"..'managed to" implies some difficulty.
    – Tom22
    Mar 2, 2017 at 0:23
  • You also hear "that was a tough win" to describe a game that was a difficult one to prevail in.
    – Tom22
    Mar 2, 2017 at 0:24

5 Answers 5


I'm pretty sure the exact antonym of "easily" is "with difficulty", i.e. the word you're looking for doesn't exist and most one-word suggestions you'll get will be approximate antonyms (like "laboriously", which as pointed out elsewhere puts much more weight on the process of doing the thing than "with difficulty" or "easily" do).


The OED clearly recognises the word difficultly, though it can imply different things.

The senses are:

1 a. Not easily or readily; with difficulty. 2014 D. Renee Cinderella Not xi. 56, I told myself it was going to be okay and very difficultly tried to calm myself.

1 b. So as to be difficult to understand; in a complex manner; obscurely. Now somewhat rare. 1988 Sunday Tel. 9 Oct. 20/8 Mr Vansittart's difficultly intricate but richly rewarding mythological novel.

1c. So as to be difficult to deal with. 2010 Dunoon Observer & Argyllshire Standard 25 June 23/1 The course was playing as difficultly as it had been for the previous week's Argyll and Bute team trophy.

1d. So as to be in an awkward or delicate position or situation. 2014 Frontier Post (Nexis) 9 July By every indication they are far more difficultly placed in Afghanistan.

    1. Unwillingly, reluctantly. Obs.1683 J. Nalson Present Interest Eng. 44 Which they now difficultly acknowledge, it is easie to foresee.

Clearly it is not 2. And I don't see much difference between 1b and 1d. But for your example there would be nothing wrong with your using the 1a sense and saying "Difficultly, they won". But it would be rather unusual. The more current way of saying it would be "With difficulty, they won."

  • I guess definition two is by extension from expressions like "don't be difficult"? Anyway, so using the word is completely fine, just that it's not a popular word so it would sound weird?
    – busukxuan
    Mar 1, 2017 at 17:02
  • That's fascinating, I had no idea that was a word. I should start using it. I don't know if I should take it as a feature or a bug that it's rather autological (it's probably the reason it isn't used more).
    – Oosaka
    Mar 1, 2017 at 18:05



  1. Requiring considerable time and effort.

"Laboriously, they won" is a bit of a strange sentence though.

Maybe "arduous"?


Involving or requiring strenuous effort; difficult and tiring.

"It was an arduous process, but they won."

(links to Oxford dictionary pages for other uses)

  • These aren't antonyms of 'easily'. Mar 1, 2017 at 10:33
  • really? they come up as antonyms of "easily" when you google it, and here powerthesaurus.org/easily/antonyms
    – Artemisia
    Mar 1, 2017 at 10:42
  • They're not the same part of speech. Mar 1, 2017 at 10:53
  • In that case I'm not sure there's a commonly-used single-word antonym. It would have to be something like "with difficulty" instead, but that doesn't fit the answer that the question is looking for.
    – Artemisia
    Mar 1, 2017 at 10:55
  • I didn't give an answer because I strongly suspected there wasn't one. Mar 1, 2017 at 22:57

I think effortfully has the meaning you're after, and seems to be gaining in usage; it is somewhat clunky, though, and still isn't very common.

From Collins Dictionary:

effortfully adverb
in an effortful manner
Once effortlessly different, the series now often feels effortfully so.

(effortful is defined as "requiring effort")

2. uncountable noun
If you say that someone did something with effort or with an effort, you mean it was difficult for them to do.

This adverb has apparently been gaining in usage in recent decades; the OED has a draft addition of the adverb dated 1993, with four citations from 1961 to 1984. There also appears to be an upswing in usage in Google Ngrams data (with the usual caveats):

"effortfully" Google Ngram (source)

Note that while the rate of use has increased, it's still a tiny absolute number of usages. However, I suspect the general upswing in use reflects a desire for a single-word alternative to phrases like "with difficulty" or "not easily", which are far more common overall but have been declining in usage over the past century (ngram).



In a way that takes considerable time and effort.

‘the boys were laboriously copying down sentences from the blackboard’

‘she breathed slowly and laboriously’

  • You need to find a definition that uses 'that requires considerable time and effort' rather than 'in a way that takes considerable time and effort' to fit with OP's request. Mar 1, 2017 at 10:32
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth Are you serious? In a way... is quite a common opening line for adverbs' definitions... Please explain the difference between 'require considerable time and effort' and 'take considerable time and effort'...
    – m.a.a.
    Mar 1, 2017 at 10:39
  • I worked laboriously (= I worked hard and long). But the task may not have required this dedication. 'Laboriously' usually describes the manner of working, not the required level of effort etc. And the definition you give corresponds to this usage. // BUT: Anybody can do it easily (= it does not require much time, effort, skill... = it is easy to do). Mar 1, 2017 at 10:53

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