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[per-pleks] /pərˈplɛks/
verb (used with object)
to cause to be puzzled or bewildered over what is not understood or certain; confuse mentally:
Her strange response perplexed me.
to make complicated or confused, as a matter or question.
to hamper with complications, confusion, or uncertainty.
Origin of perplex
First recorded in 1585-95; back formation from perplexed
Related forms
perplexer, noun
perplexingly, adverb
unperplexing, adjective
1. mystify, confound. 2. tangle, snarl. 3. vex, annoy, bother. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for perplex
Historical Examples
  • He was a poet without knowing it, and his gifts only served to perplex him further.


    James Anthony Froude
  • If I have my private doubts, why should I set them up to perplex the community withal?

  • It was not so difficult as to perplex them, and yet it required attention and care.

    The Teacher Jacob Abbott
  • The idea of his teacher's trying to perplex and embarrass him, was entirely new.

    The Teacher Jacob Abbott
  • "I don't want to perplex you, but I have done something," said Nick, getting up.

    The Tragic Muse

    Henry James
  • That did not perplex Heidi though, for she saw two glasses standing behind.

    Heidi Johanna Spyri
  • Some of the girls asked foolish questions just to perplex her.

    The Girls at Mount Morris

    Amanda Minnie Douglas
  • This poverty in nature must perplex the Mesopotamian artist.

    In Mesopotamia Martin Swayne
  • The boat began to move, and the motion seemed to perplex some of the oarsmen.

    The Boat Club Oliver Optic
  • The least religion is enough to perplex him, and the best will not satisfy him.

    Microcosmography John Earle
British Dictionary definitions for perplex


verb (transitive)
to puzzle; bewilder; confuse
to complicate: to perplex an issue
Word Origin
C15: from obsolete perplex (adj) intricate, from Latin perplexus entangled, from per- (thoroughly) + plectere to entwine
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
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Word Origin and History for perplex

late 14c. as an adjective, "perplexed, puzzled, bewildered," from Latin perplexus "involved, confused, intricate;" but Latin had no corresponding verb *perplectere. The Latin compound would be per "through" (see per) + plexus "entangled," past participle of plectere "to twine, braid, fold" (see complex (adj.)).

The form of the English adjective shifted to perplexed by late 15c., probably to conform to other past participle adjectives. The verb is latest attested of the group, in 1590s, evidently a back-formation from the adjective. Related: Perplexing, which well describes the history of the word.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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