Definition of problem in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈpräbləm/


1A matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome: they have financial problems the problem of ageism in Hollywood
More example sentences
  • This is a good time to deal with earthy details, practical matters and health problems.
  • However, you do clearly have a problem dealing with stressful situations.
  • Workers have already been forced to look for other jobs due to financial and family problems.
difficulty, trouble, worry, complication, difficult situation;
snag, hitch, drawback, stumbling block, obstacle, hurdle, hiccup, setback, catch;
predicament, plight;
misfortune, mishap, misadventure;
dilemma, quandary
informal headache, nightmare
nuisance, bother, pest, irritant, thorn in one's side/flesh, vexation
informal drag, pain, pain in the neck
1.1A thing that is difficult to achieve or accomplish: motivation of staff can also be a problem
More example sentences
  • Manpower shortages and recruitment problems are creating serious difficulties in many areas of medicine.
  • Searching for people is one of the most difficult problems for search engines.
  • Climbing over the railings and down the steps was not a difficult problem.
1.2 [as modifier] Denoting or relating to people whose behavior causes difficulties to themselves and others: practitioners help families develop strategies for managing problem behavior in teens a problem family
More example sentences
  • Among teenagers, however, many of the problem behaviors, such as general delinquency and drug use, occur only because an opportunity to indulge occurs, and because peers provide a means of learning.
  • Investigators obtained court approval to evict the residents, a measure they said has proven effective in ending problem behaviour.
  • Police and council officers have pledged to do even more to curb problem behaviour and will use new powers to help them.
2 Physics & Mathematics An inquiry starting from given conditions to investigate or demonstrate a fact, result, or law.
Example sentences
  • Under his influence Dirac worked on some problems in statistical mechanics.
  • The conditions of many problems are stated carelessly and drawings are completely lacking.
  • In fact the specific problem which he set out to solve was to find two mean proportionals between two straight lines.
2.1 Geometry A proposition in which something has to be constructed. Compare with theorem.
Example sentences
  • Book One discusses his laws of motion then proceeds to a series of propositions, theorems and problems.
  • This work attempted to solve the problem of constructing a line of the same length as an arc of a circle.
  • Problems in geometry whose solutions he had shown privately to colleagues were detailed in the book
2.2(In various games, especially chess) an arrangement of pieces in which the solver has to achieve a specified result.
Example sentences
  • He then gave five problems involving the chess board as set up at the start of a game.
  • Henry learnt to play chess at a young age and soon became interested in chess problems.
  • The problem is White to play and mate in two moves against any Black defence.



have a problem with

Disagree with or have an objection to: I have no problem with shopping on Sundays
More example sentences
  • I think he's having a problem with all the loud music.
  • But surely if his counterparts have a problem with what he did, it will reflect badly on them, and not on him.
  • Many writers have a problem with even hinting at the general tone of a piece ahead of time.

no problem

Used to express one’s agreement or acquiescence: “Can you help?” “No problem.”
More example sentences
  • He stood in this chamber this morning and said he had no problem with what we were proposing.
  • I can clear them over the weekend, no problem, and start a new week all clean, clear and busting to go.
  • So last night I got to bed really early and managed to get to sleep no problem.

that's your (or his, or her, etc.) problem

(Said with emphatic stress on pronoun) used to express one’s lack of interest in or sympathy with the problems or misfortunes of another person: he’d made a mistake but that was his problem
More example sentences
  • How you cope with ordinary bookstores thereafter, well, that's your problem.
  • If you're getting fat from fast food, some politicians say that's your problem.
  • If you live overseas and can't figure out the time difference, that's your problem.


Late Middle English (originally denoting a riddle or a question for academic discussion): from Old French probleme, via Latin from Greek problēma, from proballein 'put forth', from pro 'before' + ballein 'to throw'.

  • A problem was initially a riddle or puzzle, or a question put forward for academic discussion. ‘Put forward’ are the key words here, as the ancestor of the English word is the Greek verb proballein, ‘to throw out or put forth’. This Greek word is based on pro ‘forward’ and ballein ‘to throw’, also the source of ballistic.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: prob·lem

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