Earning a bare subsistence, as on the land; marginal: the sharecropper's hardscrabble life. (adjective)
Barren or marginal farmland.(noun)
American Heritage(R) Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright (c) 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Use "hardscrabble" in a sentence
"I didn't really use the word hardscrabble, though."
"It strikes as exceedingly odd that urban folk from the U.S. existing on social security benefits or estate incomes want to go and live in hardscrabble villages where people are eking out a living day to day so they can romp around in the bucolic quaintness the locals would give their eye teeth to escape."
"In the midst of that the reviewer talks about the show's gritty 1980s Northern England setting, describing it as 'hardscrabble' - what a great word."