We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Does Having a "Hard Row to Hoe" Mean?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Sometimes stated as "a tough row to hoe," "a hard row to hoe" is one of several English phrases that is used to identify a situation that will require a significant amount of work and dedication to successfully accomplish. The imagery that is connected with this particular idiom has to do with the process of gardening, and draws on the visualization of someone who is using a garden hoe to till the rows of plants in a manner that will hopefully result in a rich harvest at a later date. In order to reap that harvest, the gardener must possess qualities such as persistence, consistency and a dedication to doing whatever is necessary to ultimately reach the goal.

In common usage, to take on a hard row to hoe means to assume responsibility for a task that will not be particularly easy to manage. At times, the taking on of this hard task comes about due to difficult situations that may not be the fault of the person suffering. For example, a young person who has no money for college expenses and does not qualify for much in the way of financial aid may have to balance working with attending classes. That individual is said to have a hard row to hoe, in that he or she will find completing a college education somewhat more difficult than students who do not have to be concerned about how the costs are covered.

At times, a hard row to hoe is sometimes related to situations in which people have made poor decisions in the past and must now work through the consequences of those actions in order to put them in the past. This would mean that an individual who wronged a loved one may have to put forth a great deal of effort in order to receive forgiveness for those past actions and eventually be able to restore some good feeling between the two persons. Depending on the nature of the infraction, this process may take years and a great deal of effort to accomplish.

Even a company can choose a course that is seen as a hard or tough row to hoe. Should a business choose to pursue a new course of action that ultimately alienates its core client base and does not capture new customers to replace that base, it may be necessary to change strategies and attempt to recapture that formerly loyal base. Finding ways to regain the trust of those former customers may constitute a hard row to hoe, in that those clients may have begun to do business with competitors and be leery of making another change. In this scenario, the company may not face only a tough or hard row, but also a long row to hoe.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including Language & Humanities, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By Buster29 — On Jul 20, 2014

I hear this idiom a lot during sports events like the Olympics. A star athlete turns out to be from a poor family and couldn't afford the right equipment or training as a child. He or she had to overcome a lot of obstacles and setbacks in order to become an elite competitor. The story will almost always start with "Jane Smith may look like any other gymnast, but she's had a hard row to hoe most of her life..."

There are some English idioms and phrases that don't translate very well into other languages or cultures, but I think most people in the world can understand what it means to have a long row to hoe. The pains and challenges of growing a garden are practically universal.

By Ruggercat68 — On Jul 20, 2014

I've never heard this idiom used as a negative. Usually when someone says another person has had a hard row to hoe, it generates sympathy or understanding. A lot of self-made people have had long rows to hoe, and it's that struggle that makes them even stronger than people who've had things handed to them or have gotten lucky breaks.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.