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

Keep in mind, this is the same Alan Dershowitz who said that a grand jury in Washington, D.C., would be problematic for Donald Trump because of the city’s large black population. Monique Judge, The Root, "Rich White People Shunning Other Rich White People For Supporting Donald Trump Is Hilarious," 2 July 2018 The sports networks could also be problematic for Comcast, which already controls nine regional sports networks. Cecilia Kang, Edmund Lee, Anchorage Daily News, "Justice Department approves Disney's purchase of Fox assets," 27 June 2018 In parts of California, the president’s presence could be problematic for Republicans on the ballot. Joshua Stewart,, "John Cox says Donald Trump will campaign for him in California," 12 June 2018 Dos Santos said adding enforcement may be problematic for minority groups. Andrew Theen,, "TriMet, ACLU escalate legal fight over Latina board member's arrest," 26 Apr. 2018 This alone wouldn’t be problematic for Russia; there’s enough oil to go around. Emily Atkin, The New Republic, "Trump, Putin, and the Race for Arctic Oil," 25 Apr. 2018 Something clearly happened to pollute the process, which should be problematic for an administration that promised to drain the swamp. Kenneth R. Gosselin,, "Inspector General Probes Interior Department's Handling Of Connecticut Casino Expansion," 23 Apr. 2018 More Replacing Steve Clifford problematic because of Hornets' painful coaching history In the preseason, Clifford had said this was the most talented roster in his tenure in Charlotte. Rick Bonnell, charlotteobserver, "Charlotte Hornets fire coach Steve Clifford | Charlotte Observer," 13 Apr. 2018 In surgery, a high-stakes field that requires both technical and interpersonal skills, conflicts can be problematic for teamwork and can even threaten patient safety. Orly Nadell Farber, STAT, "‘You, me, parking lot!’: Behind surgical curtain, researchers find hierarchies and gender dynamics driving conflict," 2 July 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

13 Oct 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).


by force of circumstances

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