noun enig·ma \i-ˈnig-mə, e-\

Definition of enigma

  1. 1 :  an obscure speech or writing

  2. 2 :  something hard to understand or explain

  3. 3 :  an inscrutable or mysterious person

Examples of enigma in a sentence

  1. 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

  2. Many scholars call 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

  3. 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 free spirit that assumes it—is the deepest enigma implied in the condition of being human, and this enigma is presented in its most disturbing form in woman. —Simone de Beauvoir, translated and edited by H.M. Parshley, The Second Sex, 1953

  4. To his friends, he was always something of an enigma.

  5. one of the great enigmas of our time

Origin and Etymology of enigma

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

First Known Use: 1539

Synonym Discussion of enigma

mystery, problem, enigma, riddle, puzzle mean something which baffles or perplexes. mystery applies to what cannot be fully understood by reason or less strictly to whatever resists or defies explanation <the mystery of the stone monoliths>. problem applies to a question or difficulty calling for a solution or causing concern <problems created by high technology>. enigma applies to utterance or behavior that is very difficult to 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 an enigma or problem that challenges ingenuity for its solution <the thief's motives were a puzzle for the police>.

ENIGMA Defined for English Language Learners


noun enig·ma \i-ˈnig-mə, e-\

Definition of enigma for English Language Learners

  • : someone or something that is difficult to understand or explain

ENIGMA Defined for Kids


noun enig·ma \i-ˈnig-mə\

Definition of enigma for Students

  1. :  someone or something that is hard to understand <Why she quit the team is an enigma to me.>

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