Definition of enigma in English:


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nounplural noun enigmas

  • A person or thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand.

    ‘Madeleine was still an enigma to him’
    • ‘His diaries record recurrent struggles to understand the enigma of his own personality, his spiritual emptiness and addictiveness.’
    • ‘One critic has said the film is: an enigma, as difficult to like as it is to dismiss.’
    • ‘After such a long struggle and the loss of her sons in unequal battles, she understands the enigma of life.’
    • ‘The two of them were a mystery, an enigma that Zoë had promised herself she would solve someday.’
    • ‘In the first half of the novel, Kilroy creates the enigma, which she proceeds to unravel in the second half.’
    • ‘And yet one of the many enigmas about this most enigmatic of men was how he could combine so obvious and genuine a love for his wife of 41 years with the endless affairs and betrayals which must have made her life a misery.’
    • ‘With the addition of diacritical points and vowel signs, the text of the Koran as we have it still presents a series of puzzles and enigmas begging for explanation.’
    • ‘A Gazette article earlier this year highlighted an enigma that has long puzzled me.’
    • ‘Now, some of us know that Moss is a mystery wrapped up in an enigma, and that he's often referred to as not the most approachable of characters.’
    • ‘It is in any case an enigma which neither one can explain properly nor one can understand properly.’
    • ‘The Dane is truly an enigma whose ever-changing fortunes are shrouded in mystery.’
    • ‘What is left is the puzzle and the enigma that we need to figure out.’
    • ‘His concept of political morality is not merely a paradox; it is indeed a conundrum wrapped in an enigma.’
    • ‘It is often felt that death is an enigma, perhaps the ultimate mystery.’
    • ‘Like this person was an enigma, a thousand puzzles beneath a vulnerable skin.’
    • ‘Not that its mysteries will readily reveal themselves: one finds oneself rereading passages to crack its subtle enigmas, tantalised by the missing puzzle piece that lies just beyond all that is visible.’
    • ‘He was no longer the soldier, no longer the enigma, and no longer a mystery.’
    • ‘And with each biographical effort to understand him, that enigma has become more, not less, obscure.’
    • ‘The script is slack and messy, in a way which does not suggest enigma or mystery - just the need for a couple more drafts.’
    • ‘For understandable reasons, the pulmonary circulation remains an enigma to most doctors.’
    mystery, puzzle, riddle, conundrum, paradox, problem, unsolved problem, question, question mark, quandary, a closed book
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/iˈniɡmə/ /ɪˈnɪɡmə/ /eˈniɡmə/ /ɛˈnɪɡmə/


Mid 16th century via Latin from Greek ainigma, from ainissesthai ‘speak allusively’, from ainos ‘fable’.