Bitter pill to swallow and hard pill to swallow

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. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, on the ball, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. 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)

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