Word of the Day : November 24, 2016


noun RID-ul


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

Did You Know?

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."


Despite Nick's outgoing nature, he doesn't share many details about his background and personal life, so he remains something of a riddle.

"Stewart's books are for children who like mysteries and riddles, and there are many scenes where readers hold their breath in suspense." — Clara Martin, The Clarion-Ledger, 16 Oct. 2016

Word Family Quiz

Here's a riddle for you—what word begins with "k" and ends in "d," descends from Old English rǣdan, and refers to a person's relatives?



More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!