[ mat-er ]
See synonyms for: mattermatteredmatteringmatters on

  1. the substance or substances of which any physical object consists or is composed: the matter of which the earth is made.

  2. physical or corporeal substance in general, whether solid, liquid, or gaseous, especially as distinguished from incorporeal substance, as spirit or mind, or from qualities, actions, and the like.

  1. something that occupies space.

  2. a particular kind of substance: coloring matter.

  3. a situation, state, affair, or business: a trivial matter.

  4. an amount or extent reckoned approximately: a matter of 10 miles.

  5. something of consequence: matter for serious thought.

  6. importance or significance: decisions of little matter.

  7. difficulty; problem; trouble: Whatever is the matter?There is something the matter with the car.

  8. ground, reason, or cause: a matter for complaint.

  9. the material or substance of a discourse, book, etc., often as distinguished from its form.

  10. things put down in words, especially printed: reading matter.

  11. things sent by mail: postal matter.

  12. a substance discharged by a living body, especially pus.

  13. Philosophy.

    • that which by integrative organization forms chemical substances and living things.

    • Aristotelianism. that which relates to form as potentiality does to actuality.

  14. Law. statement or allegation.

  15. Printing.

    • material for work; copy.

    • type set up.

  16. Christian Science. the concept of substance shaped by the limitations of the human mind.

verb (used without object)
  1. to be of importance; signify: It matters little.

  2. Pathology. to suppurate.

Idioms about matter

  1. a matter of life and death, something of vital or crucial importance.

  2. as a matter of fact, in reality; actually; in fact: As a matter of fact, there is no substance to that rumor.

  1. for that matter, as far as that is concerned; as for that: For that matter, you are no better qualified to judge than I.: Also for the matter of that .

  2. no matter,

    • regardless or irrespective of: We'll never finish on time, no matter how hard we work.

    • it is unimportant; it makes no difference: No matter, this string will do as well as any other.

Origin of matter

First recorded in 1175–1225; Middle English mater(e), materie, from Anglo-French, Old French mat(i)ere, materie, from Latin māteria “woody part of a tree, material, substance,” derivative of māter “mother”; see also mother1

synonym study For matter

1. Matter, material, stuff, substance refer to that of which physical objects are composed (though all these terms are also used abstractly). Matter, as distinct from mind and spirit, is a broad word that applies to anything perceived, or known to be occupying space: solid matter; gaseous matter. Material usually means some definite kind, quality, or quantity of matter, especially as intended for use: woolen material; a house built of good materials. Stuff, a less technical word, with approximately the same meanings as material, is characterized by being on an informal level when it refers to physical objects ( Dynamite is queer stuff ), and on a literary or poetic one when it is used abstractly ( the stuff that dreams are made on ). Substance is the matter that composes a thing, thought of in relation to its essential properties: a sticky substance.

word story For matter

Matter has a spectacular history. The English noun ultimately comes from Latin māteria (also māteriēs ) “timber, wood for building, the woody part of a tree (as opposed to the root or bark).” Māteria is a derivative of māter “mother, source, origin of (material and abstract) things.”
In the first century b.c., the Roman poet and Epicurean philosopher Lucretius and his elder contemporary Cicero, statesman and man of letters, began using māteria in the sense “any substance that makes up a physical object,” also “the basic substance of the physical universe,” a translation of Greek hýlē “timber, firewood, wood for building.” Two hundred years earlier, Aristotle was using hýlē in the extended sense “the basic substance of the physical universe, matter,” prefiguring the Romans.
Māteria maintained its original, pre-Aristotelian sense “wood” in Portuguese, becoming madeira by regular phonetic change. The island of Madeira is so called because it is (or was) thickly wooded, and the fortified wine originating on that island is known as Madeira or Madeira wine (first occurring in English at the end of the 16th century). Some would claim that, more than wood, wine is the basic substance, or stuff, of life.

Other words for matter

Other words from matter

  • mat·ter·ful, adjective
  • mat·ter·less, adjective
  • non·mat·ter, noun

Words that may be confused with matter

Words Nearby matter Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use matter in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for matter


/ (ˈmætə) /

  1. that which makes up something, esp a physical object; material

  2. substance that occupies space and has mass, as distinguished from substance that is mental, spiritual, etc

  1. substance of a specified type: vegetable matter; reading matter

  2. (sometimes foll by of or for) thing; affair; concern; question: a matter of taste; several matters to attend to; no laughing matter

  3. a quantity or amount: a matter of a few pence

  4. the content of written or verbal material as distinct from its style or form

  5. (used with a negative) importance; consequence

  6. philosophy (in the writings of Aristotle and the Scholastics) that which is itself formless but can receive form and become substance

  7. philosophy (in the Cartesian tradition) one of two basic modes of existence, the other being mind : matter being extended in space as well as time

  8. printing

    • type set up, either standing or for use

    • copy to be set in type

  9. a secretion or discharge, such as pus

  10. law

    • something to be proved

    • statements or allegations to be considered by a court

  11. for that matter as regards that

  12. no matter

    • regardless of; irrespective of: no matter what the excuse, you must not be late

    • (sentence substitute) it is unimportant

  13. the matter wrong; the trouble: there's nothing the matter

  1. to be of consequence or importance

  2. to form and discharge pus

Origin of matter

C13 (n), C16 (vb): from Latin māteria cause, substance, esp wood, or a substance that produces something else; related to māter mother

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

Scientific definitions for matter


[ mătər ]

  1. Something that has mass. Most of the matter in the universe is composed of atoms which are themselves composed of subatomic particles. See also energy state of matter.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for matter


In physics, something that has mass and is distinct from energy. (See phases of matter.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Other Idioms and Phrases with matter


In addition to the idioms beginning with matter

  • matter of course, a
  • matter of fact, a
  • matter of life and death, a
  • matter of opinion, a

also see:

  • crux of the matter
  • for that matter
  • gray matter
  • mince matters
  • mind over matter
  • no joke (laughing matter)
  • no matter
  • the matter

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.