conundrum

noun
co·​nun·​drum | \ kə-ˈnən-drəm How to pronounce conundrum (audio) \

Essential Meaning of conundrum

: a confusing or difficult problem He is faced with the conundrum [=dilemma] of trying to find a job without experience. an ethical conundrum

Full Definition of conundrum

1a : an intricate and difficult problem He is faced with the conundrum of trying to find a job without having experience.
b : a question or problem having only a conjectural answer … the political conundrums involved, particularly the problem of how the richer areas … can be made to subsidize the poorer.— Douglass Cater
2 : a riddle whose answer is or involves a pun (as in "Why didn't the lost hikers starve in the desert? Because of the sand which is there.")

Did you know?

The exact origin of conundrum isn't known with certainty. What is known is that the word has been in use since the early 1600s, and that it had various spellings, such as conimbrum, quonundrum, conuncrum, and quadundrum, before the current spelling was finally established sometime in the mid-17th century. One theory of origin suggests that the word was coined as a parody of Latin by students at Oxford University, where it appears to have enjoyed particular popularity in its "word play" or "pun" sense. While the prevalent sense in this century is that of the seemingly unanswerable question or problem, frequently applied to heady dilemmas involving ethics, sociology, or economics, the word is sometimes so loosely applied to anything enigmatic as to be synonymous with puzzle or mystery.

Examples of conundrum in a Sentence

… giving parents a wealth of educational options sometimes presents a familiar inner-city conundrum: What if all your choices are bad ones? — Katherine Boo, New Yorker, 9 Apr. 2001 Mention of poor eyes and good eyes brings me to the creationist's favorite conundrum. What is the use of half an eye? — Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden, 1995 The explanation of this conundrum is to be heard, at this very moment, on certain surreptitious radio waves, on which the voice of the American convert Bilal is … transmuted into the thunderous speech of the Imam himself. — Salman Rushdie, Harper's, December 1988 the conundrum of how an ancient people were able to build such massive structures without the benefit of today's knowledge and technology
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Recent Examples on the Web Resorts and government entities have tried a variety of approaches to the commuting conundrum, too, from opening up extra toll lanes, to raising parking fees to encourage skiers and boarders to use other methods of transit. Maren Larsen, Outside Online, 23 Dec. 2021 Yes, so the more likely answer to this conundrum is that while Hardy may not be a part of the MCU, the symbiote itself may not be out of the question. Gretchen Smail, Vulture, 17 Dec. 2021 The answer to this conundrum, of course, is the much more massive and fully reusable Starship rocket. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, 1 Dec. 2021 But for Olivier den Ouden, an acoustics researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, the solution to this conundrum was obvious: put infrasound sensors into tiny backpacks and get albatrosses to wear them. Robin Andrews, Wired, 29 Nov. 2021 The answer to this conundrum is surprisingly simple; instead of buying a large LED or OLED TV, buy a laser TV instead. Mark Sparrow, Forbes, 15 Nov. 2021 Another result points to a conundrum for Biden -- whether and how to seek compromise with minority-party Republicans in Congress. Gary Langer, ABC News, 24 Apr. 2021 Adding to the conundrum, companies are increasingly making tools specifically for the Internet’s youngest users, who are old enough to type words on a smartphone or computer, but too young for existing social media apps. Washington Post, 24 Mar. 2021 Adding to the conundrum, companies are increasingly making tools specifically for the Internet’s youngest users, who are old enough to type words on a smartphone or computer, but too young for existing social media apps. Heather Kelly, Anchorage Daily News, 24 Mar. 2021

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

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First Known Use of conundrum

1645, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for conundrum

origin unknown

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Time Traveler for conundrum

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The first known use of conundrum was in 1645

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Last Updated

20 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Conundrum.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conundrum. Accessed 27 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for conundrum

conundrum

noun
co·​nun·​drum | \ kə-ˈnən-drəm How to pronounce conundrum (audio) \

Kids Definition of conundrum

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Nglish: Translation of conundrum for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of conundrum for Arabic Speakers

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