what's the matter

Idioms & Phrases

what's the matter

What is the difficulty or problem? What troubles or ails you? For example, You look upsetwhat's the matter? or Can you tell me what's the matter with my car? This idiom uses matter in the sense of "the essence of something," in this case a problem. It was first recorded in 1469. Also see what's with.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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