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[puhz-uh l] /ˈpʌz əl/
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), puzzled, puzzling.
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), puzzled, puzzling.
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
1585-95; origin uncertain
Related forms
puzzledly, adverb
puzzledness, noun
unpuzzle, verb (used with object), unpuzzled, unpuzzling.
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. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for puzzle out
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She could not puzzle out how she had mounted the steps and reached her room.

    The Song of Songs Hermann Sudermann
  • It is a very great pleasure to me to puzzle out the sentences.

    Field and Forest Oliver Optic
  • She wanted to be alone, to puzzle out what the coming of this man meant to her.

    Brand Blotters William MacLeod Raine
  • But there was no sense in trying to puzzle out the reason for their having gone.

    The Boy Scout Automobilists Robert Maitland
  • He passes a puzzle out to everybody, and they spend all their lives tryin' to work it out.

  • Then I lay quite still, trying to puzzle out what was the matter.

    Charge! George Manville Fenn
  • If you like, take along the map and puzzle out variations, from time to time.

    Memory William Walker Atkinson
  • The next thing was to puzzle out what was written in the letter.

    The Great Hunger Johan Bojer
  • Anyhow, we left Jake back at the trolley station, and he's probably still there, trying to puzzle out how we got away.

British Dictionary definitions for puzzle out


to perplex or be perplexed
(intransitive) foll by over. to attempt the solution (of); ponder (about): he puzzled over her absence
(transitive) usually foll by out. to solve by mental effort: he 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 solution See jigsaw puzzle, Chinese puzzle
Derived Forms
puzzling, adjective
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for puzzle out



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
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Idioms and Phrases with puzzle out

puzzle out

Clarify or solve something, as in It took him a while to puzzle out the significance of the statement. [ Late 1700s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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