A bitter pill to swallow and a hard pill to swallow are variations of an idiom that has been in use for hundreds of years. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition
We will examine the meaning of the idiom a bitter pill to swallow or a hard pillow to swallow, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.
A bitter pill to swallow and a hard pill to swallow describe something that is difficult to accept. The idiom first appeared in the 1600s as a pill to swallow. At the time, a pill was considered a foul thing to ingest and did not require a modifier. The variation a bitter pill to swallow came into use in the 1700s, and the final expression, a hard pill to swallow, came into use in the 1800s. Today, The phrase a bitter pill to swallow is about twice as popular as the term a hard pill to swallow. As with many idioms, sometimes only the first part of the phrase is quoted, as in a bitter pill and a hard pill.
That this is happening despite Mombasa being the second largest city in Kenya, and a major tourist destination, is a very bitter pill to swallow though we have been forced to live with it. (The Daily Nation)
‘It’s gutting and a bitter pill to swallow for a few of us now. It’s sad for the tournament’: Heather Knight calls for ICC to include reserve days at future T20 World Cups after England were eliminated from semi-finals due to rain (The Daily Mail)
That is a hard pill to swallow if you’re flying somewhere far for a quick spring break. (The Michigan Daily)
“I don’t want people to think we’re anti-police in Du Quoin because we are not,” he said, “but it’s just a hard pill to swallow that 72% of this tax would come from Du Quoin and we wouldn’t get much out of it.” (The Southern Illinoisan)