noun (1)
rid·​dle | \ ˈri-dᵊl \

Definition of riddle

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1 : a mystifying, misleading, or puzzling question posed as a problem to be solved or guessed : conundrum, enigma
2 : something or someone difficult to understand


verb (1)
riddled; riddling\ ˈrid-​liŋ , ˈri-​dᵊl-​iŋ \

Definition of riddle (Entry 2 of 4)

intransitive verb

: to speak in or propound riddles

transitive verb

1 : to find the solution of : explain
2 : to set a riddle for : puzzle


noun (2)

Definition of riddle (Entry 3 of 4)

: a coarse sieve


verb (2)
riddled; riddling\ ˈrid-​liŋ , ˈri-​dᵊl-​iŋ \

Definition of riddle (Entry 4 of 4)

transitive verb

1 : to separate (something, such as grain from chaff) with a riddle : screen
2 : to pierce with many holes riddled the car with bullets
3 : to spread through : permeate a book riddled with errors

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Other Words from riddle

Verb (1)

riddler \ ˈrid-​lər , ˈri-​dᵊl-​ər \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for riddle

Noun (1)

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

Riddle Me This

It is not unusual for words to acquire and lose meanings over time, and riddle is no exception. Old English speakers—who had a variety of spellings for riddle, including hrædels, redelse, and rædelse—used the word as we do today to describe a question posed as a problem to be solved or guessed, but they also used it in the now obsolete senses of "counsel," "consideration," "debate," "conjecture," "interpretation," "imagination," and "example." (Not surprisingly, the Old English source of riddle is a cousin to Old English rǣdan, meaning "to interpret" or "to advise.") By the beginning of the 15th century riddle acquired the sense of "a puzzling or perplexing thing," and in the 17th century it also came to refer to "a puzzling or enigmatic person or being."

First Known Use of riddle

Noun (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (1)

1571, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

Noun (2)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Verb (2)

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for riddle

Noun (1)

Middle English redels, ridel, from Old English rǣdelse opinion, conjecture, riddle; akin to Old English rǣdan to interpret — more at read

Noun (2)

Middle English ridel, going back to Old English hriddel (attested once), alteration (by dissimilation or suffix substitution) of hridder, hrīder, going back to Germanic *hrīdra- (whence also Old Saxon hrīdra "sieve," Old High German rītera), going back to Indo-European *krei̯(h1)̯-dhro- or *krei̯(h1)̯-tro- (whence Latin crībrum "sieve," Old Irish críathar, Old Welsh cruitr "winnowing fan"), from *krei̯(h1)- "sift, separate" + *-dhro-, *-tro-, suffixes of instrument — more at certain entry 1

Note: See note at acetabulum.

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Time Traveler for riddle

The first known use of riddle was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for riddle


rid·​dle | \ ˈri-dᵊl \

Kids Definition of riddle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a puzzling question to be solved or answered by guessing
2 : someone or something that is hard to understand His strange behavior was a riddle.


riddled; riddling

Kids Definition of riddle (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to pierce with many holes My umbrella was riddled by hailstones during the sudden storm.
2 : to fill with something unpleasant or unwanted The report is riddled with errors.

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More from Merriam-Webster on riddle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with riddle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for riddle

Spanish Central: Translation of riddle

Nglish: Translation of riddle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of riddle for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about riddle

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tremendous in size, volume, or degree

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