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[prob-luh m] /ˈprɒb ləm/
any question or matter involving doubt, uncertainty, or difficulty.
a question proposed for solution or discussion.
Mathematics. a statement requiring a solution, usually by means of a mathematical operation or geometric construction.
difficult to train or guide; unruly:
a problem child.
Literature. dealing with choices of action difficult either for an individual or for society at large:
a problem play.
no problem, (used as a conventional reply to a request or to express confirmation, affirmation, or gratitude).
1350-1400; Middle English probleme < Latin problēma < Greek próblēma orig., obstacle, (akin to probállein to throw or lay before), equivalent to pro- pro-2 + -blē-, variant stem of bállein to throw (cf. parabola) + -ma noun suffix of result
Related forms
subproblem, noun
1, 2. puzzle, riddle, enigma.
1. certitude. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for problems
  • But it turns out that these machines may cause problems worse than hanging chads.
  • His two guests do indeed face two similar and linked problems.
  • Voters around the country are experiencing problems this morning as voting machines break down and long lines form.
  • Pro: the points will provide the bribe many of them seem to need to work practice problems.
  • Yet this respectable average hides a series of problems.
  • Certain learning disabilities are linked to problems of perception, when the brain misinterprets sensory input.
  • Getting rid of weeds before they set seed is important to prevent ongoing problems.
  • There are many types of eye problems and visual disturbances.
  • Big, complex problems require the work of multidisciplinary teams.
  • Critics of such arguments have pointed out that these problems are not necessarily unique to primates.
British Dictionary definitions for problems


  1. any thing, matter, person, etc, that is difficult to deal with, solve, or overcome
  2. (as modifier): a problem child
a puzzle, question, etc, set for solution
(maths) a statement requiring a solution usually by means of one or more operations or geometric constructions
(modifier) designating a literary work that deals with difficult moral questions: a problem play
Word Origin
C14: from Late Latin problēma, from Greek: something put forward; related to proballein to throw forwards, from pro-² + ballein to throw
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for problems



late 14c., "a difficult question proposed for solution," from Old French problème (14c.) and directly from Latin problema, from Greek problema "a task, that which is proposed, a question;" also "anything projecting, headland, promontory; fence, barrier;" also "a problem in geometry," literally "thing put forward," from proballein "propose," from pro "forward" (see pro-) + ballein "to throw" (see ballistics).

Meaning "a difficulty" is mid-15c. Mathematical sense is from 1560s in English. Problem child first recorded 1920. Phrase _______ problem in reference to a persistent and seemingly insoluble difficulty is attested at least from 1882, in Jewish problem. Response no problem "that is acceptable; that can be done without difficulty" is recorded from 1968.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for problems


Related Terms

have a problem with something

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with problems


see: no problem
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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