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

Synonyms for problematic

Synonyms: Adjective

catchy, delicate, difficult, dodgy [chiefly British], hairy, knotty, nasty, prickly, sensitive, spiny, sticky, thorny, ticklish, touchy, tough, tricksy, tricky

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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

The episode illustrates how Rossi’s career as a real-estate investor and landlord — while making him a multimillionaire — also has proved problematic at times during his campaigns for elected office. Jim Brunner, The Seattle Times, "Dino Rossi has done well in real estate, but his work is also fodder for campaign opponents," 16 Oct. 2018 But the lingering distrust within the activist class could prove problematic for Democrats. Emily Cadei, sacbee, "Democrats push for unity in California House races after bruising primary," 13 July 2018 But by taking Congress out of the equation, the gun manufacturers will have one less hurdle that has proved problematic for past gun sales. Annie Linskey,, "Donald Trump wants to make foreign arms sales easier," 23 June 2018 Next comes the July 1 start of free agency, a process that will begin with the Heat not only lacking salary-cap space, but so hard against the punitive NBA luxury tax that spending the mid-level exception could even prove problematic. Ira Winderman,, "Winderman: Heat swimming upstream this offseason | Commentary," 23 June 2018 The prevalence of security and surveillance cameras could also prove problematic for Winslow and his legal team. Michael Mccann,, "Could Kellen Winslow Jr.'s Attorneys Use Football-Induced Brain Injury as Defense for Alleged Crimes?," 16 June 2018 Now, fruits and vegetables are more likely to prove problematic. Shari Rudavsky, Indianapolis Star, "Are foodborne illness outbreaks increasing or does it just seem that way?," 14 June 2018 That could prove problematic for both fighters, who travel internationally to fight and may face issues at border crossings. A.j. Perez, USA TODAY, "Conor McGregor heads to court Thursday for more legal proceedings stemming from bus attack," 13 June 2018 His now-fraught relationship with Trudeau could prove problematic, as could his already-fraught relationship with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto over his promised border wall. Z. Byron Wolf, CNN, "Trump's new world order," 11 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

8 Dec 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).


a nest or breeding place

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