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[uh-nig-muh] /əˈnɪg mə/
noun, plural enigmas; Chiefly Archaic, enigmata
[uh-nig-muh-tuh] /əˈnɪg mə tə/ (Show IPA)
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
1. problem. See puzzle. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for enigmas
  • Do not the enigmas which life presents keep our interest as nothing else could.
  • Their intimacy, combined with a certain mystery of the inexplicable, gives them the status of moral enigmas.
  • The relationship of these figures to each other, and to the frieze on the adjacent wall, is among the great enigmas in cave art.
  • He may well have been the last of the great narrative painters, and his narratives are almost always enigmas.
  • Great historical figures are often enduring enigmas.
  • Gaines' typically clear and accessible production mostly attacks the play's enigmas by being unafraid to play for laughs.
  • Time, which had a role in this, is probably the deepest of all enigmas in physics.
British Dictionary definitions for enigmas


a person, thing, or situation that is mysterious, puzzling, or ambiguous
Derived Forms
enigmatic (ˌɛnɪɡˈmætɪk), enigmatical, adjective
enigmatically, 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
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Word Origin and History for enigmas



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
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