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The essential part or cause of something, as in
We still don't understand what happened; we must get to the root of the matter
. This expression was first recorded in the Bible (Job 19:28).
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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root of the matter
(...) can live on vegetable food alone; and to strike at the root of the matter at once,—for the...
Henry David Thoreau