- a puzzling or inexplicable occurrence or situation: His disappearance is an enigma that has given rise to much speculation.
- a person of puzzling or contradictory character: To me he has always been an enigma, one minute completely insensitive, the next moved to tears.
- a saying, question, picture, etc., containing a hidden meaning; riddle.
- (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.
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
SynonymsSee more synonyms for enigma on Thesaurus.com
1. problem. See puzzle.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
- a person, thing, or situation that is mysterious, puzzling, or ambiguous
C16: from Latin aenigma, from Greek ainigma, from ainissesthai to speak in riddles, from ainos fable, story
Word Origin and History for enigmata
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.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper