What does the idiom "To make matters worse" mean?

The expression To make matters worse is one of the idioms that often finds a place in our literature and enriches our language. However, its meaning is not fully understood, so it is sometimes used in the wrong situations. Please review the explanation carefully for the correct use of the To make matters worse idiom.

Meaning of "To make matters worse"


To make matters worse is an idiom used when a bad situation is further complicated by the addition of another unfavorable circumstance. In other words, a person might use this expression when an already challenging situation becomes even more difficult. It is a way of expressing that a complex situation just became much more challenging.


The phrase “to make matters worse” is from 1550s, from Middle English expression "worse to here." There is also evidence for a related expression from the same era, “to make worse worse”. The exact etymology of the phrase is unknown, although its usage has been tied to other phrases that denote the same meaning. The phrase is likely derived from the concept of “making a bad situation worse”.


The idiom “to make matters worse” is generally used when discussing a difficult situation that has just been complicated further. It can also be used to describe a situation that has become more difficult due to the addition of more difficulties or obstacles. It is most commonly used in casual conversation, such as in stories or anecdotes, as well as in more formal contexts such as news reports. In all these contexts, the phrase is used to emphasize the newly added difficulties.

Example Sentences

  • The car broke down on the highway, and to make matters worse, it began to rain heavily.
  • She was already stressed out with her studies, and to make matters worse, her computer crashed.
  • The city was already struggling economically, but to make matters worse, the unemployment rate rose significantly.

The meanings of the words in the "To make matters worse" idiom

From One Language to Another: Idioms in Translation

Translating idioms from one language to another can be a tricky task, as the cultural context behind an idiom can be difficult to capture. For example, the French phrase "avoir le cafard" translates to "to have the cockroach," which means to feel down or depressed. Similarly, the Chinese idiom "????" (j?ng d? zh? w?) translates to "frog at the bottom of a well," which refers to someone with a narrow view of the world.


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