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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English struglen, stroglen, strogelen, of obscure origin. Cognate with Scots strugil (to struggle, grapple, contend). Perhaps from a variant of *strokelen, *stroukelen (> English stroll), from Middle Dutch struyckelen ("to stumble, trip, falter"; > Modern Dutch struikelen), the frequentative form of Old Dutch *strūkon (to stumble), from Proto-Germanic *strūkōną, *strūkēną (to be stiff), from Proto-Indo-European *strug-, *ster- (to be stiff; to bristle, strut, stumble, fall), related to Middle Low German strûkelen ("to stumble"; > Low German strükeln), Old High German strūhhēn, strūhhōn ("to stumble, trip, tumble, go astray"; > German strauchen, straucheln).

Alternative etymology derives the base of struggle from Old Norse strúgr (arrogance, pride, spitefulness, ill-will) + -le (frequentative suffix), from Proto-Germanic *strūkaz (stiff, rigid), ultimately from the same Proto-Indo-European root above, which would make it cognate with dialectal Swedish strug (contention, strife, discord), Norwegian stru (obstinate, unruly), Danish struende (reluctantly), Scots strug (difficulty, perplexity, a laborious task).


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /ˈstrʌɡəl/, [ˈstɹʌɡl̩]
  • Hyphenation: strug‧gle
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ʌɡəl


struggle (plural struggles)

  1. A contortion of the body in an attempt to escape or to perform a difficult task.
  2. (figurative) Strife, contention, great effort.
    • 1918, W[illiam] B[abington] Maxwell, chapter XXIII, in The Mirror and the Lamp, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, →OCLC:
      The struggle with ways and means had recommenced, more difficult now a hundredfold than it had been before, because of their increasing needs. Their income disappeared as a little rivulet that is swallowed by the thirsty ground. He worked night and day to supplement it.
    • 2019, Rachel Timoner, “Book Review: Textual Activism by Rabbi Mike Moskowitz”, in Tikkun[1]:
      R. Moskowitz charges cisgender readers to be as conscious and deliberate with our religious identities as transgender and gender non-conforming people are with theirs, arguing that holiness is only achieved through continuous and unrelenting struggle and change.

Derived terms[edit]



struggle (third-person singular simple present struggles, present participle struggling, simple past and past participle struggled)

  1. To strive, to labour in difficulty, to fight (for or against), to contend.
    During the centuries, the people of Ireland struggled constantly to assert their right to govern themselves.
    • 2011 October 1, Tom Fordyce, “Rugby World Cup 2011: England 16-12 Scotland”, in BBC Sport:
      England were ponderous with ball in hand, their runners static when taking the ball and their lines obvious, while their front row struggled badly in the scrum.
    • 2013 June 28, Joris Luyendijk, “Our banks are out of control”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 189, number 3, page 21:
      Seeing the British establishment struggle with the financial sector is like watching an alcoholic who still resists the idea that something drastic needs to happen for him to turn his life around.
    • 2022 January 12, Paul Clifton, “Network News: Emergency timetables as absences surge due to COVID”, in RAIL, number 948, page 6:
      Most train operators have reduced services with emergency timetables, as they struggle to cope with a rapid increase in staff absences due to the Omicron variant of COVID.
  2. To have difficulty with something.
    One of the doctor’s patients struggled with depression.
  3. To strive, or to make efforts, with a twisting, or with contortions of the body.
    She struggled to escape from her assailant's grasp.
    • 1879, R[ichard] J[efferies], chapter II, in The Amateur Poacher, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., [], →OCLC:
      Orion hit a rabbit once; but though sore wounded it got to the bury, and, struggling in, the arrow caught the side of the hole and was drawn out. Indeed, a nail filed sharp is not of much avail as an arrowhead; you must have it barbed, and that was a little beyond our skill.

Usage notes[edit]

Derived terms[edit]