prob·lem·at·ic | \ ˌprä-blə-ˈma-tik \
variants: or less commonly problematical \ˌprä-blə-ˈma-ti-kəl \

Definition of problematic 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : posing a problem : difficult to solve or decide

b : not definite or settled : uncertain their future remains problematic

c : open to question or debate : questionable

2 : expressing or supporting a possibility



Definition of problematic (Entry 2 of 2)

: something that is problematic : a problematic aspect or concern

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Other words from problematic


problematically \ˌprä-blə-ˈma-ti-k(ə-)lē \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for problematic


doubtful, dubious, problematic, questionable mean not affording assurance of the worth, soundness, or certainty of something. doubtful implies little more than a lack of conviction or certainty. doubtful about whether I said the right thing dubious stresses suspicion, mistrust, or hesitation. dubious about the practicality of the scheme problematic applies especially to things whose existence, meaning, fulfillment, or realization is highly uncertain. whether the project will ever be finished is problematic questionable may imply no more than the existence of doubt but usually suggests that the suspicions are well-grounded. a man of questionable honesty

Examples of problematic in a Sentence


Rules of grammar are more problematic for non-native speakers. the problematic situation of somehow having two dates for the same party

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

This is particularly problematic in urban music and reggaeton, which continues to have significant crossover success. Jessica Lipsky, Billboard, "Latin Women Take The Reins: Insights From the Latin Alternative Music Conference," 13 July 2018 That could be especially problematic in a world ruled by autonomous-driving technology. Eric D. Lawrence,, "Future of Fiat Chrysler depends on Alfa Romeo, Maserati moreso than Fiat, Chrysler," 12 June 2018 In response, Mitchell felt compelled to discuss the situation on her Instagram Story and explain why comments like these are so problematic and upsetting. Devon Abelman, Allure, "Model Salem Mitchell Is Sick of Black Women's Hairstyles Being Labeled "Ghetto"," 13 July 2018 Perhaps most problematic: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is reportedly cautioning against choosing Kavanaugh. Aaron Blake, Washington Post, "The best argument for and against each Trump Supreme Court candidate," 5 July 2018 Belgium is the most problematic possible quarterfinal opponent. Brian Straus,, "Brazil Hopes Its World Cup Crescendo Continues Into Brutal Knockout Stage Road," 27 June 2018 The new rules single out potentially problematic practices that came to light in 2016 when Wells Fargo — the city’s main bank — acknowledged creating millions of potentially unauthorized consumer bank accounts and credit cards. James Rufus Koren,, "L.A. City Council OKs new banking disclosures prompted by Wells Fargo scandal," 26 June 2018 For minors, medical privacy rules may prevent sampling unless each child is designated a legal guardian or representative, which is obviously problematic in this case. John Moore, National Geographic, "Could DNA Testing Reunite Immigrant Families? Get the Facts.," 25 June 2018 Princess Elizabeth fought to marry her longtime sweetheart, who was seen as a potentially problematic match. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "Prince Louis's Christening Date Has a Special Meaning to the Royal Family," 20 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'problematic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of problematic


1609, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1898, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for problematic

Last Updated

1 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for problematic

The first known use of problematic was in 1609

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More Definitions for problematic



English Language Learners Definition of problematic

: difficult to understand, solve, or fix

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Comments on problematic

What made you want to look up problematic? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


occurring twice a year or every two years

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