Definition of problem in English:



  • 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’
    • ‘Academy status gives schools greater freedom to tackle the problems associated with low performance.’
    • ‘We are never going to solve environmental problems without also solving social justice problems.’
    • ‘Conversely, if the extrusion temperature is too high, two potential problems arise.’
    • ‘Thus Aer Lingus and its directors face serious technical problems from a company law perspective.’
    • ‘However, you do clearly have a problem dealing with stressful situations.’
    • ‘He stressed that prison overcrowding was the main problem facing all prisons in the country.’
    • ‘When constructed the roundabout will hopefully alleviate the difficult traffic problems experienced by motorists when exiting Ursuline Court.’
    • ‘The source of the country's problems is the lack of confidence in the governing process.’
    • ‘Although I'm very well off myself, I do unfortunately have a temporary cashflow problem at the moment.’
    • ‘He also has been plagued by left hamstring problems.’
    • ‘When there is too extensive a drain of Capital from a country, tremendous liquidity problems occur.’
    • ‘The mechanism of adaptation remains a fundamental unsolved problem in evolutionary biology.’
    • ‘Many youth today are disillusioned and lack personal vision, which partially explains the drug problem plaguing many western countries.’
    • ‘"The specialist thinks the groin problem stems from my back complaint.’
    • ‘The Net poses intractable problems to the would-be lawmaker, or moral disciplinarian.’
    • ‘But most experts believe the country's drug problem is likely to get a lot worse before it gets better.’
    • ‘Workers have already been forced to look for other jobs due to financial and family problems.’
    • ‘Once all the technical problems solved, we start getting it down on tape.’
    • ‘And the sheer truth: the world's poverty problem is mainly due to unequal distribution of capitalism.’
    • ‘This is a good time to deal with earthy details, practical matters and health problems.’
    • ‘But the website seemed to be experiencing some technical teething problems.’
    • ‘To my knowledge it's the only commercial product in the world that actually has resolved that fundamental problem.’
    • ‘As he points out, the new capitalist economy created social problems not previously faced in American society.’
    nuisance, source of difficulty, bother, pest, source of trouble, irritant, thorn in one's flesh, thorn in one's side, vexation
    difficulty, issue, trouble, worry, complication, difficult situation, mess, muddle, mix-up
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1A thing that is difficult to achieve.
      ‘motivation of staff can also be a problem’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The problem is the difficulty of unfurling such a huge flag in gale-force winds.’
      • ‘Climbing over the railings and down the steps was not a difficult problem.’
      • ‘Catching the basketball in traffic or grabbing a difficult pass gives him problems.’
      difficulty, issue, trouble, worry, complication, difficult situation, mess, muddle, mix-up
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2[as modifier]Denoting or relating to people whose behaviour causes difficulties to themselves and others.
      ‘practitioners help families develop strategies for managing problem behaviour in teens’
      ‘a problem family’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Payouts on slot machines are set to increase despite fears about problem gambling.’
      • ‘Police and council officers have pledged to do even more to curb problem behaviour and will use new powers to help them.’
      • ‘Then his relationship started to sour with his dad, who regularly lost large amounts of money on sports betting and became a problem drinker.’
      • ‘The council announced plans to tackle the 500 worst problem families in the town.’
      • ‘Research shows that price and availability are two of the main drivers of problem drinking.’
      • ‘An organisation set up to tackle alcohol misuse has called for workplace testing to seek out problem drinkers.’
      • ‘The problem stems from big cities dumping all their problem families on the old seaside resorts.’
      • ‘Problem parents who fail to provide valid and legitimate excuses for their children's school absences would then be issued with school attendance notices.’
  • 2Mathematics Physics
    An inquiry starting from given conditions to investigate or demonstrate a fact, result, or law.

    • ‘They are simplified versions of the very difficult problems that physicists encounter.’
    • ‘Turbulence is one of the main unsolved problems in physics.’
    • ‘The conditions of many problems are stated carelessly and drawings are completely lacking.’
    • ‘The book also contains articles devoted to various problems of applied fluid mechanics.’
    • ‘Under his influence Dirac worked on some problems in statistical mechanics.’
    • ‘In fact the specific problem which he set out to solve was to find two mean proportionals between two straight lines.’
    1. 2.1Geometry A proposition in which something has to be constructed.
      Compare with theorem
      • ‘He was intrigued by an elusive and tantalizing little problem in elementary geometry known as the butterfly problem.’
      • ‘Problems in geometry whose solutions he had shown privately to colleagues were detailed in the book’
      • ‘The Greeks did not think of the problem as a problem in algebra but rather as a problem in geometry.’
      • ‘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.’
    2. 2.2(in chess) an arrangement of pieces in which the solver has to achieve a specified result.
      • ‘He then gave five problems involving the chess board as set up at the start of a game.’
      • ‘Duchamp spent the one week they lived together studying chess problems, and his bride, in desperate retaliation, got up one night when he was asleep and glued the chess pieces to the board.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This problem teaches you a lot about king and pawn endgames.’


  • have a problem with

    • Disagree with or have an objection to.

      ‘I have no problem with shopping on Sundays’
      • ‘But surely if his counterparts have a problem with what he did, it will reflect badly on them, and not on him.’
      • ‘If you have a problem with that, this is where the exit button can be pressed.’
      • ‘We wrestle with that all the time and a lot of people have a problem with that.’
      • ‘I think he's having a problem with all the loud music.’
      • ‘Many writers have a problem with even hinting at the general tone of a piece ahead of time.’
      • ‘I'm a grown woman who owns a house and wants to live in it - why would she have a problem with that?’
      • ‘And it is our common interests that we represent, so no one should really have a problem with that.’
      • ‘It isn't a term I have a problem with, although not everyone is comfortable with it.’
      • ‘I wouldn't have a problem with that, if it also applied to sites run by the government.’
      • ‘This is something which many people have a problem with when they go to an Indian restaurant.’
      disapprove of, oppose, dissent from, think wrong, be against, have a problem with, demur about, demur against, not believe in, not support
      View synonyms
  • no problem

    • Used to express one's agreement or acquiescence.

      ‘‘Can you come over here right away?’ ‘No problem.’’
      • ‘You can while away a shining hour or six when you're watching tropical fish, no problem.’
      • ‘On a sunny February afternoon this was no problem, but come August it will be like an oven.’
      • ‘If it is just a light shower and we can wait it out in the pits, that's no problem.’
      • ‘If the chairman or the manager want to talk to me about an extension to my contract then no problem.’
      • ‘I can clear them over the weekend, no problem, and start a new week all clean, clear and busting to go.’
      • ‘I have seen it and studied it, so no problem with that little staircase in my garden, right?’
      • ‘It did take me a while to get used to a curved screen again, but that's no problem.’
      • ‘Well, there is no need for a solution because Downing Street says there is no problem.’
      • ‘So last night I got to bed really early and managed to get to sleep no problem.’
      • ‘He stood in this chamber this morning and said he had no problem with what we were proposing.’
  • that's your (or his, her, etc.) problem

    • Used to express one's lack of interest in or sympathy with another person's problems.

      ‘he'd made a mistake but that was his problem’
      • ‘If he'd rather stay stuck in the past instead of moving on to the possibility of great new things with someone that he (seemed to) really click with, then that's his problem.’
      • ‘How you cope with ordinary bookstores thereafter, well, that's your problem.’
      • ‘If you live overseas and can't figure out the time difference, that's your problem.’
      • ‘If Mr Oaten failed to register his own names on the Web, then really that's his problem.’
      • ‘If you don't like my being friendly to others in this school, then that's your problem, not everyone else's.’
      • ‘I mean seriously, if he doesn't understand your need for bigger (and not necessarily better) things then that's his problem.’
      • ‘Yeah, sure, he doesn't have an 8 am class like you do, but that's his problem, not your flat mates’.’
      • ‘If you're getting fat from fast food, some politicians say that's your problem.’
      • ‘You're too sensitive, Christopher, that's your problem.’
      • ‘You think too much Mitch, I think 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.