per·​plex pər-ˈpleks How to pronounce perplex (audio)
perplexed; perplexing; perplexes

transitive verb

: to make unable to grasp something clearly or to think logically and decisively about something
her attitude perplexes me
a perplexing problem
: to make intricate or involved : complicate
Choose the Right Synonym for perplex

puzzle, perplex, bewilder, distract, nonplus, confound, dumbfound mean to baffle and disturb mentally.

puzzle implies existence of a problem difficult to solve.

the persistent fever puzzled the doctor

perplex adds a suggestion of worry and uncertainty especially about making a necessary decision.

a behavior that perplexed her friends

bewilder stresses a confusion of mind that hampers clear and decisive thinking.

a bewildering number of possibilities

distract implies agitation or uncertainty induced by conflicting preoccupations or interests.

distracted by personal problems

nonplus implies a bafflement that makes orderly planning or deciding impossible.

the remark left us utterly nonplussed

confound implies temporary mental paralysis caused by astonishment or profound abasement.

the tragic news confounded us all

dumbfound suggests intense but momentary confounding; often the idea of astonishment is so stressed that it becomes a near synonym of astound.

was at first too dumbfounded to reply

Examples of perplex in a Sentence

Questions about the meaning of life have always perplexed humankind. let's not perplex the issue further with irrelevant concerns
Recent Examples on the Web How the plants awakened from a decades-long rest with such zest has perplexed soil biologists. Zack Savitsky, Quanta Magazine, 12 July 2023 She is perplexed that her team’s work might serve as a model for other cities. Priya Krishna, New York Times, 8 Nov. 2023 The paradoxes of George Harrison’s career can perplex even the most casual Beatles fans. D.j. Taylor, WSJ, 20 Oct. 2023 Everyone in the football world, including NBC rule analyst and former NFL referee Terry McAulay, are perplexed by the referee's lack of penalties called on the Chiefs' right tackle Jawaan Taylor. Jared Ramsey, Detroit Free Press, 8 Sep. 2023 Fans of the film might be perplexed by the narrative’s reframing around Lydia, since the role on-screen, played by Winona Ryder, was more of a supporting part with a quirky curiosity about death. Ashley Lee, San Diego Union-Tribune, 6 Aug. 2023 This intricate web of regulations can perplex even the most informed individuals. Amber Smith, Discover Magazine, 8 July 2023 For those perplexed by all the excitement over a movie about a toy — even one that has spanned several generations — look no further. Shannon Larson,, 6 July 2023 Ukraine’s continued focus on Bakhmut, the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the war, has perplexed US intelligence and military officials. Eric Schmitt,, 22 Aug. 2023 See More

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

Word History


obsolete perplex, adjective, involved, perplexed, from Latin perplexus, from per- thoroughly + plexus involved, from past participle of plectere to braid, twine — more at per-, ply

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of perplex was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near perplex

Cite this Entry

“Perplex.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


per·​plex pər-ˈpleks How to pronounce perplex (audio)
: to block the understanding of
especially : confuse sense 1a, bewilder
: to make difficult to understand : complicate

More from Merriam-Webster on perplex

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