prob·​lem·​at·​ic | \ ˌprä-blə-ˈma-tik How to pronounce problematic (audio) \
variants: or less commonly problematical \ ˌprä-​blə-​ˈma-​ti-​kəl How to pronounce problematical (audio) \

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 How to pronounce problematically (audio) \ 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 two clubs are now thought to be working to agree personal terms with their potential new signings, but that is not expected to prove problematic., "Juventus Agree Deal to Sign Luca Pellegrini With Leonardo Spinazzola Leaving to Join Roma," 28 June 2019 That could prove problematic in 2020 if voters in these counties feel their lives haven't improved measurably since 2016. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, "Trouble in Trump country: Many are still "left behind"," 25 June 2019 But agreeing a common approach to the problem has proved problematic, with the United States blocking demands to set a global target to significantly reduce or phase out single-use plastics. Washington Post, "G-20 urges ‘voluntary action’ on marine plastic crisis but fails to agree on common approach," 16 June 2019 But agreeing on a common approach to the problem has proved problematic, with the United States blocking demands to set a global target to significantly reduce or phase out single-use plastics., "World powers urge ‘voluntary action’ on marine plastic crisis, fail to agree on approach," 16 June 2019 Bottlenose dolphin tourism in Florida (pdf) has likewise proven problematic, with interaction between species putting both the sea creatures and the people at risk of injury and disease. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "Our love of dolphins is not always good for them," 8 June 2019 The corner has proved problematic for years, frustrating local residents and employees as a nexus of narcotics sales and gang violence and prompting a Dallas Morning News story in 2015. Marc Ramirez, Dallas News, "Dozens gather to remember 13-year-old slain in Pleasant Grove as Dallas' violent crime surge continues," 5 June 2019 The politics of climate change will be problematic for the duration, for several reasons. Rich Lowry, National Review, "The Climate Trap for Democrats," 14 June 2019 Thatch is the result of compacted soils, overfertilization, heavy irrigation and is more problematic for certain lawns like Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue and bentgrass. Betty Cahill, The Denver Post, "Leaving grass clippings can help your lawn and save you time," 14 June 2019

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

7 Jul 2019

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).


characterized by aphorism

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