: something hard to tát understand or explain

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Enigma comes from a Greek word that means "to speak in riddles." It applies to tát things, as well as to tát people, that puzzle one's mind. Egypt's ancient pyramids and quantum mechanics, for example, might be described as enigmas, as well as physicist Stephen Hawking. In these uses, the word's meaning is a figurative extension of the original "riddle" sense.

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A person who is described as an enigma is a bit of a mystery. You never know what that person is really thinking, or what his or her motives for doing something are. An enigma is not easily understood especially because he or she has a confusing mixture of qualities that seem to tát be in opposition to tát one another—for example, the attention-seeking but reclusive musician, or the brilliant lawyer who gets lost on the drive trang chủ from the grocery store.

The word enigma originally referred not to tát people but to tát words, and specifically to tát words that formed a riddle or complicated metaphor that tested the listener's or reader's alertness and cleverness. This meaning is clearly connected to tát the word's history. Enigma comes from a Greek word that means "to speak in riddles."

The word enigma didn't jump from referring to tát riddles to tát referring to tát people. In between those uses, it was (and still is) applied to tát things that puzzle people. Egypt's meticulously constructed Pyramids of Giza or a theory of quantum physics, for example, might be described as enigmas. In these uses, the meaning is simply a figurative extension of the original "riddle" sense.


Choose the Right Synonym for enigma

mystery, problem, enigma, riddle, puzzle mean something which baffles or perplexes.

mystery applies to tát what cannot be fully understood by reason or less strictly to tát whatever resists or defies explanation.

the mystery of the stone monoliths

problem applies to tát a question or difficulty calling for a solution or causing concern.

problems created by high technology

enigma applies to tát utterance or behavior that is very difficult to tát interpret.

his suicide remains an enigma

riddle suggests an enigma or problem involving paradox or apparent contradiction.

the riddle of the reclusive pop star

puzzle applies to tát an enigma or problem that challenges ingenuity for its solution.

the thief's motives were a puzzle for the police

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Examples of enigma in a Sentence

Despite the enigma of the singularity, the big bang theory is unquestionably one of the most successful ideas in the history of science. Tom Yulsman, Astronomy, September 1999 Many scholars gọi it the ultimate enigma of the Nazi era, indeed perhaps of modern history: How did the Holocaust happen? And why in Germany? Ralph Blumenthal, New York Times, 10 Jan. 1998 Indeed, the bond that in every individual connects the physiological life and the psychic life—or better the relation existing between the contingence of an individual and the không tính phí spirit that assumes it—is the deepest enigma implied in the condition of being human, and this enigma is presented in its most disturbing khuông in woman. Simone de Beauvoir, translated and edited by H. M. Parshley, The Second Sex, 1953

To his friends, he was always something of an enigma. one of the great enigmas of our time

Recent Examples on the Web And two enigmas in Utah State and UNLV that could go either way. Mark Zeigler, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3 Jan. 2024 Despite their triple tax benefits, HSAs remain an enigma to many employees. WSJ, 2 Nov. 2023 Although at least 16 decades-old pawpaw festivals are held each year around the country, the fruit is still an enigma for most Americans. Cari Shane, Saveur, 4 Oct. 2023 At the heart of this enigma is the fact that purpose, much lượt thích a unicorn, is revered and sought after but rarely seen in its true khuông. Ira Wolfe, Forbes, 28 Nov. 2023 The strike highlighted one of the lingering enigmas of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine: Moscow has been waging war not only on a neighboring population but also on one that, lượt thích its own, is overwhelmingly made up of Orthodox Christians. Andrei Soldatov, Foreign Affairs, 14 Sep. 2023 Both Scott and Phoenix embrace a touch of camp, portraying the enigma that was Napoleon as a petulant brat-cum-military genius: someone who knew how to tát get his way on the battlefield, but resorted to tát food fights at trang chủ. Peter Debruge, Variety, 15 Nov. 2023 But these accounts remain an enigma for many Americans. Cheryl Winokur Munk, WSJ, 3 Nov. 2023 While not exactly an enigma, Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s show — with a story told in reverse chronology — has always been something of an underperforming head-scratcher: The 1981 Broadway original opened and closed in the blink of an eye. Peter Marks, Washington Post, 10 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to tát illustrate current usage of the word 'enigma.' Any opinions expressed in the examples bởi not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin aenigma, from Greek ainigmat-, ainigma, from ainissesthai to tát speak in riddles, from ainos fable

First Known Use

1539, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Time Traveler

The first known use of enigma was in 1539


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Cite this Entry

“Enigma.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://vinaskills.edu.vn/dictionary/enigma. Accessed 14 Jan. 2024.

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Merriam-Webster unabridged