Definition of conundrum
- He is faced with the conundrum of trying to find a job without having experience.
- … the political conundrums involved, particularly the problem of how the richer areas … can be made to subsidize the poorer.
- —Douglass Cater
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the conundrum of how an ancient people were able to build such massive structures without the benefit of today's knowledge and technology
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'conundrum.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
The exact origin of conundrum isn't known with certainty. What is known is that the word has been in use since the early 1600s, and that it had various spellings, such as conimbrum, quonundrum, conuncrum, and quadundrum, before the current spelling was finally established sometime in the mid-17th century. One theory of origin suggests that the word was coined as a parody of Latin by students at Oxford University, where it appears to have enjoyed particular popularity in its "word play" or "pun" sense. While the prevalent sense in this century is that of the seemingly unanswerable question or problem, frequently applied to heady dilemmas involving ethics, sociology, or economics, the word is sometimes so loosely applied to anything enigmatic as to be synonymous with puzzle or mystery.
: a confusing or difficult problem
What made you want to look up conundrum? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).
to pay off by making regular payments
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