The title explains the question. Are bosons matter? As I have seen, there are three answers to this question:

  1. No, only fermions are matter.

  2. Yes, but only those with mass.

  3. Yes, all bosons are matter.

Could you please sort out this confusion, or is there no 'correct' answer?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hi and welcome to PSE. You need, imo, to be very precise as to what you call "matter". An electron, (fermion) for example, is often described as a possibly dimensionless point. Is that matter, in the way you might view a rock as matter? I hope you get an answer from an expert, but as a complete amateur, I think this question depends on which definitions you are prepared to accept. Under the current standard model, I don't think a force carrier counts as matter. $\endgroup$ – user175021 Nov 12 '17 at 16:44
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I would go with 2. Photons aren't matter but a C12 nucleus is. $\endgroup$ – Martin Beckett Nov 12 '17 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinBeckett You are confusing matter with mass. Matter is what the material world consists of as opposed to the spiritual world. The material existence implies moving in time. Due to the fundamental time/energy symmetry, energy is what moves in time. Thus anything that has energy is matter. All bosons are matter, including the photon, although not all of them have mass. However, the OP's question may be poorly phrased. If it meant to ask about mass rather than matter, then it should have used the correct terminology. $\endgroup$ – safesphere Nov 12 '17 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ I see the Wikipedia is just as confused and only adds to everyone's confusion. So you cannot ask if bosons are matter without clarifying what specifically you mean by matter. $\endgroup$ – safesphere Nov 12 '17 at 17:48
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I was adopting Heisenberg's interpretation "if you can shove it - it's matter" $\endgroup$ – Martin Beckett Nov 12 '17 at 20:16

Ok, let me try an answer that I will learn from, if and when it's shot down (but not by pedantry please :).

I want to stay pragmatic and stick what physics is about, measurements and predictions based on those measurements. @JEB gives a nice summary, but I am not sure it's what the OP is after, which is why I write this.

Take a rock and call it matter and say matter is exactly the same thing as mass, as most non physicists would view it. A rock is stuff, and stuff is mass.

Ignore the problems regarding what actually "is" an electron, and go along with the fact that we can assign a charge (through measurement) to it, in this case a charge called mass.

The same idea with the other "permanent" fermions in the rock, quarks in particular, and say that they have a charge as well, again this charge is mass.

So that leaves us with bosons.

Electromagnetic force carriers can travel forever, as far as we know, so we can say they have no mass. As mentioned in the answer above, we can strongly relate photons to the z boson of the weak force, but as for the electroweak force, for this answer I am going to pretend that it has not been discovered.

So the electromagnetic forces that hold the atoms together do not contribute any mass.

The weak force.

This force is weak, because the range of interaction is very small, in turn precisely because the bosons involved are so massive. More on this at The Weak Force : Wikikpedia. So in the spirit of pragmatism, at any particular instant, when you check the mass of the rock, these bosons are making a contribution to the mass.

Gluons and strong nuclear force.

No mass here (to the limits of our ability to measure any), but this is better explained by Do Gluons have mass?

The nuclear force, since it is a residual effect of the strong nuclear force, does not contribute mass either. Nuclear Force: Wikipedia

In total, you have two main contributions to the matter/mass of your rock, measured at any given time, the fermions and the weak massive bosons.

  • $\begingroup$ Bear with me if you know this. When I joined this site, wiser people than I told me: Physics is only about describing the properties of "entities", measuring them and making predictions and is not in any way an attempt to say what they actually are. I initially thought this was a cop out, but it's not. Personally, I think we will never fully understand reality, but that's ok by me, if we knew everything, we would be bored stupid. Best of luck with your studies. $\endgroup$ – user175021 Nov 13 '17 at 22:58

The real question is "What's the matter?". "Things with mass" is clearly problematic with regards to photons vs Z-bosons. If by matter you mean "stuff that is conserved" [proton decay notwithstanding], then some bosons are matter, and some aren't. If you mean "stuff you can hold", consider a ballon full of Helium (4, the cheap stuff..not 3He)--it's full of bosons.


Fermions are matter particles. Elementary bosons are all gauge bosons (which are force carriers), except Higgs boson which is a scalar boson. Elementary bosons are not matter particles. However you can have a boson made up of two fermions. E.g. Mesons are bosons made up of two quarks (more exactly one quark and one antiquark).

So elementary bosons are not matter particles, but composite bosons are indeed matter particles because they are made of fermions.


Matter is any manifestation of energy that has rest mass.

So the only manifestations of energy that should NOT be called MATTER is photons,gluons and gravitons(hypo.) and of course dark energy because they give no evidence of rest mass.

EXPLANATION- Although Composite bosons are made up of fermions,they do not obey Pauli exclusion principle, nor do they follow Fermi Dirac stats, I cannot see the difference between rest mass containing elementary bosons and composite bosons.....If you can call superfluid He-4 (which is a composite boson) a state of matter then you must call W and Z bosons and Higgs bosons matter.....THUS ELEMENTARY BOSONS WHICH HAVE REST MASS SHOULD BE MATTER ALSO!


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.