puz·​zle | \ ˈpə-zəl How to pronounce puzzle (audio) \
puzzled; puzzling\ ˈpə-​zə-​liŋ How to pronounce puzzle (audio) , ˈpəz-​liŋ \

Definition of puzzle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to offer or represent to (someone) a problem difficult to solve or a situation difficult to resolve : challenge mentally also : to exert (oneself, one's mind, etc.) over such a problem or situation they puzzled their wits to find a solution
2 archaic : complicate, entangle
3 : to solve with difficulty or ingenuity puzzle out an answer to a riddle

intransitive verb

1 : to be uncertain as to action or choice
2 : to attempt a solution of a puzzle by guesswork or experiment puzzle over the mystery



Definition of puzzle (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the state of being puzzled : perplexity
2a : something that puzzles
b : a question, problem, or contrivance designed for testing ingenuity

Other Words from puzzle


puzzler \ ˈpə-​zə-​lər How to pronounce puzzle (audio) , ˈpəz-​lər \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for puzzle


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


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

Examples of puzzle in a Sentence

Verb The cause of the accident has puzzled investigators. it is the cause of the disease that puzzles doctors Noun a book of puns, riddles, and puzzles the final fate of the colonists at Roanoke remains a puzzle to this very day
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In the meantime, theorists will continue to puzzle over anomalies and dream up hypothetical particles that could be responsible for the discrepancies detectors have seen. Daniel Garisto, Scientific American, 27 Apr. 2022 Today, neurologists continue to puzzle over instances of bizarre physical effects of the mind on the body. Joe Didonato, Forbes, 25 Apr. 2022 That said, the actor knows Professor X’s death and reappearance will puzzle fans. Chris Smith, BGR, 7 Mar. 2022 Neff — who drills and analyzes ice cores to puzzle out evidence of past climates — said those cores could one day provide some answers. NBC News, 27 Mar. 2022 The pandemic has kindled interest in lots of hobbies, from bread baking to card collecting to puzzle making. Jennifer Billock, Smithsonian Magazine, 17 Feb. 2022 Each has their own rules, aesthetic, and fanbase but all aim to puzzle the mind game strategists among us. Elizabeth Berry, Woman's Day, 11 Mar. 2022 Records personnel would routinely dump the contents of burn bags on a table and try to puzzle out which of the torn documents needed to be taped together and preserved, the former official said. Anchorage Daily News, 6 Feb. 2022 Centuries later, scientists still puzzle over the phenomenon, despite several laboratory experiments that have produced effects visually similar to ball lightning. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 5 Feb. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Framing mental health as a key driver for business success changes the whole tenor of corporate life not only from a management perspective but elevates the value of care as a vital piece of the puzzle to a more comprehensive people strategy. Jonathan Kaufman, Forbes, 6 May 2022 Enlarge / Wordle's value to The New York Times isn't much of a puzzle. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, 4 May 2022 For the Bengals, these players’ intangibles can be just as important of a piece of the puzzle. Charlie Goldsmith, The Enquirer, 1 May 2022 Although other stars like DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball are locked down, LaVine is the missing piece of the puzzle — and maybe the most important. Julia Poe, Chicago Tribune, 29 Apr. 2022 True Grit is ultimately a movie about the power of friendships and close relationships; the vengeance aspect is just a small and potentially unnecessary part of the puzzle. Evan Romano, Men's Health, 15 Apr. 2022 Induction heads resolve at least part of the puzzle. Quanta Magazine, 14 Apr. 2022 Some of the pieces of the puzzle are already in place. cleveland, 10 Apr. 2022 But the storytelling moves along at a steady hum, maintaining intrigue as different pieces of the puzzle come together. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 6 Apr. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'puzzle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of puzzle


1582, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


1599, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for puzzle


origin unknown

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Dictionary Entries Near puzzle



puzzle box

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Last Updated

9 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Puzzle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/puzzle. Accessed 20 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for puzzle


puz·​zle | \ ˈpə-zəl How to pronounce puzzle (audio) \
puzzled; puzzling

Kids Definition of puzzle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : confuse sense 1, perplex The mysterious phone call puzzles me.
2 : to solve by thought or by clever guessing She tried to puzzle out the crime.



Kids Definition of puzzle (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a question, problem, or device intended to test skill or cleverness
3 : something that perplexes : mystery

More from Merriam-Webster on puzzle

Nglish: Translation of puzzle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of puzzle for Arabic Speakers


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