• Matter


    • RP IPA: /ˈmætə/
    • GenAm IPA: /ˈmætɚ/
    • Rhymes: -ætə(ɹ)
    • Hyphenation: mat + ter


    From Middle English mater, matere, from Anglo-Norman matere, materie, from Old French materie, matiere, from Latin materia ("matter, stuff, material"), derivative of Latin mater ("mother"). Displaced native Middle English andweorc, andwork ("material, matter") (from Old English andweorc ("matter, substance, material")), Old English intinga ("matter, affair, business").

    Full definition of matter



    (countable and uncountable; plural matters)
    1. Substance, material.
      1. (physics) The basic structural component of the universe. Matter usually has mass and volume.
      2. (physics) Matter made up of normal particles, not antiparticles. (Non-antimatter matter).
      3. A kind of substance.
        vegetable matter
      4. Written material (especially in books or magazines).
        printed matter;   He always took some reading matter with him on the plane.
      5. (philosophy) Aristotelian: undeveloped potentiality subject to change and development; formlessness. Matter receives form, and becomes substance.
    2. A condition, subject or affair, especially one of concern.
      What's the matter?;   state matters
      • Francis Bacon (1561-1626)if the matter should be tried by duel
      • John Milton (1608-1674)Son of God, Saviour of men! Thy name
        Shall be the copious matter of my song.
      • Bible, Exodus xviii. 22Every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge.
      • 1898, Winston Churchill, The Celebrity Chapter 8, The humor of my proposition appealed more strongly to Miss Trevor than I had looked for, and from that time forward she became her old self again;.... Now she had come to look upon the matter in its true proportions, and her anticipation of a possible chance of teaching him a lesson was a pleasure to behold.
      • 12 July 2012, Sam Adams, AV Club Ice Age: Continental DriftThe matter of whether the world needs a fourth Ice Age movie pales beside the question of why there were three before it, but Continental Drift feels less like an extension of a theatrical franchise than an episode of a middling TV cartoon, lolling around on territory that’s already been settled.
    3. An approximate amount or extent.
      I stayed for a matter of months.
      • John Milton (1608-1674)No small matter of British forces were commanded over sea the year before.
      • Roger L'Estrange (1616-1704)Away he goes,...a matter of seven miles.
      • William Congreve (1670-1729)I have thoughts to tarry a small matter.
    4. (obsolete) The essence; the pith; the embodiment.
    5. (obsolete) Inducing cause or reason, especially of anything disagreeable or distressing.
      • John Milton (1608-1674)And this is the matter why interpreters upon that passage in Hosea will not consent it to be a true story, that the prophet took a harlot to wife.
    6. (obsolete) Pus.

    Related terms


    1. (intransitive) To be important.The only thing that matters to Jim is being rich.Sorry for pouring ketchup on your clean white shirt! - Oh, don't worry, it does not matter.
      • 2011, April 10, Alistair Magowan, Aston Villa 1 - 0 Newcastle, Despite further attempts by Agbonlahor and Young, however, they could not find the goal to reward their endeavour.
        It mattered little as Newcastle's challenge faded and Villa began to dominate the game in midfield, and it was only Barton's continued sense of injustice that offered the visitors any spark in a tame contest.
    2. (transitive, obsolete except dialectal) To care about, to mind; to find important.
      • 1749, Henry Fielding, Tom Jones, Folio Society 1973, p. 47:Besides, if it had been out of doors I had not mattered it so much; but with my own servant, in my own house, under my own roof ...
    3. to form pus or matter, as an abscess; to maturate.
      • Sir Philip SidneyEach slight sore mattereth.

    Derived terms

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