[ en-ig-mat-ik, ee-nig- ]
/ ˌɛn ɪgˈmæt ɪk, ˌi nɪg- /
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resembling an enigma, or a puzzling occurrence, situation, statement, person, etc.; perplexing; mysterious: She has a perpetually enigmatic expression on her face.This is the most enigmatic book I have ever read!
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Also en·ig·mat·i·cal.

Origin of enigmatic

First recorded in 1620–30; from Late Latin aenigmaticus, from Greek ainigmatikós, equivalent to ainigmat- (stem of aínigma “riddle, taunt”) + -ikos adjective suffix; see origin at enigma, -ic

synonym study for enigmatic

See ambiguous.

historical usage of enigmatic

Enigmatic has always meant “ambiguous, obscure, perplexing” since the adjective entered English in the 17th century. This word comes from the Latin adjective aenigmaticus, from the Greek adjective ainigmatikós, a derivative of the Greek noun aínigma (stem ainigmat- ) “a dark saying, riddle, taunt.”
Aínigma (the direct source of English enigma , meaning “a riddle or puzzling situation”) is a derivative of the verb ainíssesthai “to speak in words full of content,” then “to speak in words difficult to understand,” and finally “to speak in riddles,” a progression in meaning that seems very apt in modern life. Ainíssesthai is a derivative of the noun aînos, “tale, story” in Homer, then “meaningful words, praise, tale with a moral, fable, riddle.” This little family of Greek words, like 60 percent of Greek vocabulary, has no known etymology.


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does enigmatic mean?

The adjective enigmatic can be used to describe someone or something that’s puzzling or mysterious.

Enigmatic means resembling an enigma—someone or something that’s puzzling, mysterious, or difficult to make sense of. The word enigma can also mean a riddle, but it’s more often used to refer to something that’s so perplexing that it seems like a riddle (and perhaps was intended to seem like one), as in That book is completely enigmatic—I have no idea what it’s really about. 

If you call a person enigmatic, you mean that they’re hard to figure out—the reasons behind what they say and do are not easily understood. Some people try to be enigmatic to be mysterious.

Example: I’ve known him for years, but he’s completely enigmatic—I have no idea what his interests are or what he’s really like.

Where does enigmatic come from?

The first records of the word enigmatic come from the 1620s. It ultimately comes from the Greek ainíssesthai, meaning “to speak in riddles,” from ainos, meaning “fable” or “story.”

An enigmatic person’s personality is like a riddle. So is pretty much anything described as enigmatic—like an enigmatic film or an enigmatic statement. There may be a meaning or understandable pattern to it, but it’s not obvious. Sometimes, things described as enigmatic are that way on purpose, probably to add a sense of mystery or intrigue. Other times, things described as enigmatic are just naturally confusing.

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What are some other forms related to enigmatic?

  • enigmatically (adverb)
  • enigmatical (adjective)
  • enigma (noun)

What are some synonyms for enigmatic?

What are some words that share a root or word element with enigmatic

What are some words that often get used in discussing enigmatic?

How is enigmatic used in real life?

When a situation or problem is described as enigmatic, it’s one that’s confusing or difficult to understand, like a riddle. When a person is described as enigmatic, it usually means that they’re hard to know.



Try using enigmatic!

Which of the following words is NOT a synonym of enigmatic?

A. mysterious
B. inscrutable
C. puzzling
D. clear

How to use enigmatic in a sentence