1

riddle

noun rid·dle \ ˈri-dᵊl \
Updated on: 15 Nov 2017

Definition of riddle

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

riddle was our Word of the Day on 11/24/2016. Hear the podcast!

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."

Origin and Etymology of riddle

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

Synonym Discussion of riddle

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

2

riddle

verb

Definition of riddle

riddled; riddling play \ˈrid-liŋ, ˈri-dᵊl-iŋ\
intransitive verb
: to speak in or propound riddles
transitive verb
1 : to find the solution of : explain
2 : to set a riddle for : puzzle

riddler

play \ˈrid-lər, ˈri-dᵊl-ər\ noun

First Known Use of riddle

1571


3

riddle

noun

Definition of riddle

: a coarse sieve

Origin and Etymology of riddle

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 1certain
Note: See note at acetabulum.


4

riddle

verb

Definition of riddle

riddled; riddling play \ˈrid-liŋ, ˈri-dᵊl-iŋ\
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

First Known Use of riddle

13th century

Other Agriculture/Gardening Terms


RIDDLE Defined for Kids

1

riddle

noun rid·dle \ ˈri-dᵊl \

Definition of riddle for Students

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.

2

riddle

verb

Definition of riddle for Students

riddled; riddling
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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