AskDefine | Define matter

Dictionary Definition



1 that which has mass and occupies space; "an atom is the smallest indivisible unit of matter" [syn: substance]
2 a vaguely specified concern; "several matters to attend to"; "it is none of your affair"; "things are going well" [syn: affair, thing]
3 some situation or event that is thought about; "he kept drifting off the topic"; "he had been thinking about the subject for several years"; "it is a matter for the police" [syn: topic, subject, issue]
4 a problem; "is anything the matter?"
5 (used with negation) having consequence; "they were friends and it was no matter who won the games"
6 written works (especially in books or magazines); "he always took some reading matter with him on the plane" v : have weight; have import, carry weight; "It does not matter much" [syn: count, weigh]

User Contributed Dictionary



From materia (matter, stuff, material), derivative of Latin mater (mother).


  • (UK) /ˈmætə/, /"m

Extensive Definition

In science, matter is commonly defined as the substance of which physical objects are composed, not counting the contribution of various energy or force-fields, which are not usually considered to be matter per se (though they may contribute to the mass of objects). Matter constitutes much of the observable universe, although again, light is not ordinarily considered matter. Unfortunately, for scientific purposes, "matter" is somewhat loosely defined. It is normally defined as anything that has mass and takes up space.
Matter can be in several different states, the most common being solids, liquids and gases.


Anything which occupies space and has mass is known as matter. In physics, there is no broad consensus as to an exact definition of matter. Physicists generally do not use the saying when precision is needed, preferring instead to speak of the more clearly defined concepts of mass, energy, and particles.
A possible definition of matter which at least some physicists use is that matter is everything that is composed of elementary fermions. These are the leptons, including the electron, and the quarks, including the up and down quarks of which protons and neutrons are made. Since protons, neutrons and electrons combine to form atoms and molecules, thus they comprise the bulk substances which make up all ordinary matter. Matter also includes the various other baryons, but excludes the "true mesons". The key relevant property of fermions is that they have half-integral spin (ie, 1/2, 3/2, 5/2,...,etc.) and thus, by the spin-statistics theorem of quantum field theory, obey the Pauli Exclusion Principle, which forbids two fermions from occupying the same quantum state. This seems to correspond closely to the more primitive notion that matter is "impenetrable", and takes up space.
On this view, things which are not matter include light (photons), gravitons, mesons (except for the muon, a lepton which was misnamed a meson before the distinction became clear) and the other gauge bosons. These all have half-even spin (0,1,2,...), do not respect the Exclusion Principle, and so do not occupy space in the same sense. These may all be regarded as field quanta, and may be exchanged freely by fermions without the fermions changing their own statistics, or thus their essential identity. However, these bosons do always have energy and, (according to the mass-energy equivalence of special relativity) therefore mass, so that under this definition some particles have mass without being matter: W and Z bosons have rest mass, but are not elementary fermions. Also, any two photons which are not moving parallel to each other, taken as a system, have an invariant mass. Glueballs have mass due to their binding energy, but contain no particle with rest mass, nor any elementary fermions.
Most of the mass of protons and neutrons comes from the binding energy between the quarks, not the masses of the quarks themselves. One of the three types of neutrinos may be massless.

Properties of matter

Quarks combine to form hadrons. Because of the principle of color confinement which occurs in the strong interaction, quarks never exist unbound from other quarks. Among the hadrons are the proton and the neutron. Usually these nuclei are surrounded by a cloud of electrons. A nucleus with as many electrons as protons is thus electrically neutral and is called an atom, otherwise it is an ion.
Leptons do not feel the strong force and so can exist unbound from other particles. On Earth, electrons are generally bound in atoms, but it is easy to free them, a fact which is exploited in the cathode ray tube. Muons may briefly form bound states known as muonic atoms. Neutrinos feel neither the strong nor the electromagnetic interactions. They are never bound to other particles.


In particle physics and quantum chemistry, antimatter is matter that is composed of the antiparticles of those that constitute normal matter. If a particle and its antiparticle come into contact with each other, the two annihilate; that is, they may both be converted into other particles with equal energy in accordance with Einstein's equation E = mc2. These new particles may be high-energy photons (gamma rays) or other particle–antiparticle pairs. The resulting particles are endowed with an amount of kinetic energy equal to the difference between the rest mass of the products of the annihilation and the rest mass of the original particle-antiparticle pair, which is often quite large. Antimatter is not found naturally on Earth, except very briefly and in vanishingly small quantities (as the result of radioactive decay or cosmic rays). This is because antimatter which came to exist on Earth outside the confines of a suitable physics laboratory would almost instantly meet the ordinary matter that Earth is made of, and be annihilated. Antiparticles and some stable antimatter (such as antihydrogen) can be made in tiny amounts, but not in enough quantity to do more than test a few of its theoretical properties.
There is considerable speculation both in science and science fiction as to why the observable universe is apparently almost entirely matter, whether other places are almost entirely antimatter instead, and what might be possible if antimatter could be harnessed, but at this time the apparent asymmetry of matter and antimatter in the visible universe is one of the great unsolved problems in physics. Possible processes by which it came about are explored in more detail under baryogenesis.

Dark matter

main Dark matter In cosmology, effects at the largest scales seem to indicate the presence of incredible amounts of dark matter which is not associated with electromagnetic radiation. Observational evidence of the early universe and big bang require that this matter have energy and mass, but is not composed of either elementary fermions (as above) OR gauge bosons. As such, it is composed of particles as yet unobserved in the laboratory (perhaps supersymmetric particles).

Exotic matter


External links

matter in Arabic: مادة
matter in Belarusian: Матэрыя
matter in Bosnian: Materija
matter in Bulgarian: Материя (физика)
matter in Catalan: Matèria
matter in Czech: Hmota
matter in Welsh: Mater
matter in Danish: Stof (fysik)
matter in German: Materie
matter in Estonian: Aine (füüsika)
matter in Modern Greek (1453-): Ύλη
matter in Spanish: Materia
matter in Esperanto: Materio
matter in Basque: Materia
matter in Persian: ماده (فیزیک)
matter in French: Matière
matter in Irish: Damhna
matter in Galician: Materia
matter in Korean: 물질
matter in Croatian: Materija
matter in Ido: Materio
matter in Indonesian: Materi
matter in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Materia
matter in Italian: Materia (fisica)
matter in Hebrew: חומר
matter in Luxembourgish: Matière
matter in Lojban: marji
matter in Hungarian: Anyag
matter in Macedonian: Материја
matter in Malayalam: ദ്രവ്യം
matter in Malay (macrolanguage): Jirim
matter in Dutch: Materie
matter in Japanese: 物質
matter in Norwegian: Materie
matter in Novial: Materie
matter in Uzbek: Materiya
matter in Low German: Materie
matter in Polish: Materia (fizyka)
matter in Portuguese: Matéria
matter in Romanian: Materie
matter in Quechua: Imayay
matter in Russian: Материя (физика)
matter in Albanian: Lënda
matter in Simple English: Matter
matter in Slovak: Hmota (fyzika)
matter in Slovenian: Snov
matter in Serbian: Материја
matter in Finnish: Aine
matter in Swedish: Materia
matter in Tagalog: Materya
matter in Tamil: பொருள்
matter in Thai: สสาร
matter in Vietnamese: Vật chất
matter in Turkish: Madde
matter in Ukrainian: Матерія
matter in Venetian: Materia
matter in Yiddish: מאטריאל
matter in Chinese: 物质

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

activities, activity, ado, affair, affairs, air, ambition, amount, amount to something, amplitude, annoyance, anxiety, argument, article, aspect, aspiration, atom, atomic particles, atoms, autograph, bag, basis, be featured, be prominent, be somebody, be something, being, besetment, body, bother, brainchild, brute matter, building block, bulk, burden, business, calling, can of worms, carry weight, case, cause, chapter, chemical element, chyle, circumstance, colostrum, commerce, complication, component, composed matter, composition, computer printout, concern, concernment, condition, consequence, consideration, constituent, content, context, copy, core, count, cut ice, cut some ice, datum, dead matter, detail, difficulty, dilemma, disadvantage, discharge, distillate, distillation, document, doing, draft, earth, edited version, element, elementary particle, elementary unit, elixir, employ, employment, engrossment, enigma, enterprise, entity, episode, essay, essence, essentials, event, evil, extent, fabric, facet, fact, factor, fair copy, fester, festering, fiction, final draft, finished version, fire, first draft, flimsy, focus of attention, focus of interest, force, function, fundamental particle, get top billing, gist, gleet, goal, great ado, grievance, ground, guiding light, guiding star, head, headache, heading, heart, holograph, humor, hyle, hypostasis, ichor, ideal, implication, import, importance, incident, incidental, inconvenience, individual, inspiration, instance, intention, interest, issue, item, job, kernel, labor, lachryma, lactation, letter, leukorrhea, literae scriptae, literary artefact, literary production, literature, live matter, living issue, lodestar, lookout, lucubration, lymph, magnitude, main point, mainspring, manuscript, marrow, mass, material, material world, materiality, matter in hand, mattering, mean, meaning, meaningfulness, measure, measurement, meat, medium, milk, minor detail, minutia, minutiae, molecule, moment, monad, motif, motive, mucor, mucus, natural world, nature, neighborhood, nonfiction, nub, numbers, object, occasion, occupation, occurrence, opus, order, original, paper, parchment, particular, peccant humor, peck of troubles, penscript, phlegm, physical world, piece, piece of writing, pith, play, plenum, poem, point, point at issue, point in question, predicament, principle, printed matter, printout, problem, proceeding, production, purport, purulence, pus, puzzle, quandary, quantity, quantum, question, quintessence, range, rankle, rankling, reading matter, reason, recension, regard, respect, rheum, ripen, rubric, run, running, sake, saliva, sanies, sap, score, screed, scrip, script, scrive, scroll, sea of troubles, second draft, sense, serous fluid, serum, service, significance, signification, signify, situation, snot, soul, source, spirit, spring, stand out, standing matter, star, strength, stuff, subject, subject matter, subject of thought, substance, substratum, sum, sum and substance, suppurate, suppuration, sweat, tangible, tear, teardrop, tell, text, the four elements, the whites, the written word, theme, thing, to-do, topic, transaction, transcript, transcription, trouble, tune, typescript, ulterior motive, undertaking, unit of being, upset, upshot, urine, version, vicinity, vocation, water, weep, weigh, weight, whole, work, worry, writing
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