confusing or baffling: a puzzling answer.


the skill or pastime of constructing or working crossword or other puzzles.

Origin of puzzling

First recorded in 1590–1600; puzzle + -ing2
Related formspuz·zling·ly, adverb


[puhz-uh l]


a toy, problem, or other contrivance designed to amuse by presenting difficulties to be solved by ingenuity or patient effort.
something puzzling; a puzzling question, matter, or person.
a puzzled or perplexed condition; bewilderment.
a crossword puzzle: Did you do the puzzle in the newspaper today?

verb (used with object), puz·zled, puz·zling.

to put (someone) at a loss; mystify; confuse; baffle: Her attitude puzzles me.
to frustrate or confound, as the understanding; perplex: The problem puzzled him for weeks.
to exercise (oneself, one's brain, etc.) over some problem or matter.
Archaic. to make intricate or complicated.

verb (used without object), puz·zled, puz·zling.

to be perplexed or confused.
to ponder or study over some perplexing problem or matter.

Verb Phrases

puzzle out, to solve by careful study or effort: I was unable to puzzle out the message.

Origin of puzzle

First recorded in 1585–95; origin uncertain
Related formspuz·zled·ly, adverbpuz·zled·ness, nounun·puz·zle, verb (used with object), un·puz·zled, un·puz·zling.

Synonyms for puzzle

2. Puzzle, riddle, enigma refer to something baffling or confusing that is to be solved. A puzzle is a question or problem, intricate enough to be perplexing to the mind; it is sometimes a contrivance made purposely perplexing to test one's ingenuity: a crossword puzzle; The reason for their behavior remains a puzzle. A riddle is an intentionally obscure statement or question, the meaning of or answer to which is to be arrived at only by guessing: the famous riddle of the Sphinx. Enigma, originally meaning riddle, now refers to some baffling problem with connotations of mysteriousness: He will always be an enigma to me. 6. confound.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for puzzling

Contemporary Examples of puzzling

Historical Examples of puzzling

  • When we had satisfied ourselves that he was alone, we took pleasure in puzzling him.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • This was a puzzling thing, but the excavators studied it out at last.

  • He remained reserved, retiring, inconspicuous, and puzzling to our understanding.

    The Fortune Hunter

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • Sometimes I have thought, sir, when puzzling over it, that he may be screening another.

    The Channings

    Mrs. Henry Wood

  • She saw her way out of the difficulty that had been puzzling her.

British Dictionary definitions for puzzling



to perplex or be perplexed
(intr foll by over) to attempt the solution (of); ponder (about)he puzzled over her absence
(tr usually foll by out) to solve by mental efforthe puzzled out the meaning of the inscription


a person or thing that puzzles
a problem that cannot be easily or readily solved
the state or condition of being puzzled
a toy, game, or question presenting a problem that requires skill or ingenuity for its solutionSee jigsaw puzzle, Chinese puzzle
Derived Formspuzzling, adjective

Word Origin for puzzle

C16: of unknown origin
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 puzzling

"bewildering," 1660s, present participle adjective from puzzle (v.). Related: Puzzlingly.



1590s, pusle "bewilder, confound," possibly frequentative of pose (v.) in obsolete sense of "perplex" (cf. nuzzle from nose). Related: Puzzled; puzzling.



c.1600, "state of being puzzled," from puzzle (v.); meaning "perplexing question" is from 1650s; that of "a toy contrived to test one's ingenuity" is from 1814.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper