Dictionary.com
definitions
  • synonyms

enigma

[uh-nig-muh]
See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
noun, plural e·nig·mas; Chiefly Archaic e·nig·ma·ta [uh-nig-muh-tuh] /əˈnɪg mə tə/.
  1. a puzzling or inexplicable occurrence or situation: His disappearance is an enigma that has given rise to much speculation.
  2. a person of puzzling or contradictory character: To me he has always been an enigma, one minute completely insensitive, the next moved to tears.
  3. a saying, question, picture, etc., containing a hidden meaning; riddle.
  4. (initial capital letter) a German-built enciphering machine developed for commercial use in the early 1920s and later adapted and appropriated by German and other Axis powers for military use through World War II.
Show More

Origin of enigma

1530–40; < Latin aenigma < Greek aínigma, equivalent to ainik- (stem of ainíssesthai to speak in riddles, derivative of aînos fable) + -ma noun suffix of result

Synonyms

See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
1. problem. See puzzle.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for enigmas

Historical Examples

  • “You speak in enigmas, Jean,” he said, bending earnestly to her again.

    The White Lie

    William Le Queux

  • To an extent this is unavoidable and one of the enigmas of life.

  • Lamartine once said that the Revolution has mysteries but no enigmas.

    Lectures on the French Revolution

    John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton

  • Somehow he seemed to possess a peculiar facility in the solving of enigmas.

    The Seven Secrets

    William Le Queux

  • The hearts of pretty women are like bonbons, wrapped up in enigmas.

    Pearls of Thought

    Maturin M. Ballou


British Dictionary definitions for enigmas

enigma

noun
  1. a person, thing, or situation that is mysterious, puzzling, or ambiguous
Show More
Derived Formsenigmatic (ˌɛnɪɡˈmætɪk) or enigmatical, adjectiveenigmatically, adverb

Word Origin

C16: from Latin aenigma, from Greek ainigma, from ainissesthai to speak in riddles, from ainos fable, story
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for enigmas

enigma

n.

1580s, earlier enigmate (mid-15c.), from Latin aenigma "riddle," from Greek ainigma (plural ainigmata), from ainissesthai "speak obscurely, speak in riddles," from ainos "fable, riddle," of unknown origin.

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper