Herculean Task – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Did your boss ask you to do something that sounds impossible to achieve? You could say she's asking you to complete a "Herculean task." This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The expression "Herculean task" refers to an action or duty that seems impossible to complete. If someone serves you a "Herculean task," they don't expect you to pull it off, and failure is the most likely scenario. You'll need tremendous effort to successfully complete a "Herculean task."

A Herculean task can refer to a project requiring immense physical or mental effort. The project will take a considerable amount of your physical strength or mental energy. A Herculean task is a tough job, and it's not certain that you'll manage to pull it off.

Typically, a Herculean task offers a huge reward for pulling it off. You could receive a bonus, a promotion at work, or kudos from your peers for making it happen.

Example Usage

"This will be a Herculean task to get this order out by the end of the week. I don't know if we can make it happen, but we're sure going to try."

"There's no way we can make that happen; it's asking too much from us. It's a Herculean task, and we don't have the team, to get it ready by then, sorry."

"That sounds like it's impossible. Why do you keep giving us these last-minute Herculean tasks? It's like you think we're superheroes or something."

"There's no reason for you to act like you can make that happen. It's a Herculean task, and we don't expect you to be able to pull it off."

"Is there any way you can get that to us by two o'clock? It's a Herculean task, but we'll make it worth your while if you can make it happen."

"I'm tired of the boss always giving me these Herculean tasks, expecting me to pull it off. I think I made the wrong decision to take this job. It's unfair of them to ask me to handle this problem."

"I know it's something of a Herculean task, but if anyone can pull it off, it's you. What do you say>? Will you help us out on this one?"


The expression "Herculean task" comes from the Greek myth of Hercules, the Demi-god son of Zeus. The deity Pythia told Hercules to serve under King Eurystheus for twelve years. Hercules had to complete twelve tasks during his service to the king, all of which were seemingly impossible. However, to the king's amazement, Hercules managed to complete all twelve tasks.

Some of the impossible tasks included slaying the multi-headed beast, the Hydra, and retrieving the ancient "Cerberus" from the grip of Hades in the Underworld. So, the meaning of "Herculean task" is something that's incredibly difficult but not completely impossible to achieve.

Phrases Similar to Herculean Task

  • Big deal.
  • Testing to the limits.

Phrases Opposite to Herculean Task

  • Minimal effort.
  • No big deal.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Herculean task.

Ways People May Say Herculean Task Incorrectly

Using the phrase "Herculean task" to describe feats that don't require much effort is incorrect. A Herculean Task involves testing your mettle to its limits. The term doesn't suit situations where you don't need to make much effort to receive a favorable outcome.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Herculean Task

You can use the expression "Herculean task" to describe situations and tasks requiring tremendous effort to complete. A Herculean task involves you testing yourself to the limit. You can use the phrase in social and professional settings, text-based communications, and verbal exchanges.

Use it at home to describe how looking after the kids for the afternoon left you feeling spent. Or use it with friends to describe a task that will take you a lot of time and effort. Use the saying at work to describe a situation that tests your skills to the limit.

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