What does "What's his deal" mean?

I couldn't find it in any dictionary, I thought it was an idiom, but it's not. It seems like a slang that's not widely used, or at least it isn't recognized by any dictionary as of now.

What's his deal mean "What is his problem?" I am guessing, but I am not sure.

3 Answers 3


There are a few ways we can interpret this:

  1. Most commonly used to ask what's going on (e.g. with a plan or a situation) - Inquiring about a deal (so basically we interpret this literally)

What's the deal the gentleman proposed to you about that loan?

  1. When asking about someone (Inquiring about someone's actions, reactions, attitude, or demeanor)

What's the deal with that guy? He doesn't look okay.

  1. When asking about a situation (Inquiring about a "next step" in a process or outcome)

So, what's the deal - are we going out to dinner?

My view of this is that it translates to "what's up", but it usually might mean the other meanings above.



The phrase is popular for its use in the American movies. It could mean:

  1. What's his/her problem?
  2. Why does he/she behave snobbish?

The list can go on.

You can usually omit the pronoun. See the definiton of the phrase in LDOCE


The question "What's his deal?" is very malleable. It's going to depend on the context. Generally, it means "what is his situation with regard to the current subject?" And the subject is going to be determined by context. It is intended to invite a general explanation of the situation regarding the subject.

So, if the discussion was personal wealth, then it would be asking about the person's personal wealth and outlook in that regard. If the discussion was about employment, then it would be about what the person's job and prosepects were. If it was about family, then it would be asking about the person's family and relationships with them. If it was about politics it would be asking the person's political opinions. And so on. In each case the person answering is invited to give important details regarding the subject person's situation.

The following is a clip from the TV show "Big Bang Theory." The character Sheldon Cooper is a Cal. Tech. professor, and really quite stunningly brilliant at it. But socially he is amazingly awkward. He has a visit from a woman. Sheldon's friends are quite surprised at this since, to this point, Sheldon had shown absolutely no interest in romantic social interactions of any sort. Yet, here is this attractive woman bringing food in a manner that gives every appearance of being a romantic date.


Upon being shooed out of the apartment to give Sheldon and his date some privacy, the character Penny asks "What is Sheldon's deal?" In context she means "what is Sheldon's sexual proclivity?" The response is that his friends believed he "had no deal." Penny prompting for more information is followed by a couple of amusing hyperbolic notions of what Sheldon's reproductive strategy might consist of, since he is widely asserted to be a mutant or a space alien foundling.

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