Definition of conundrum in English:



  • 1A confusing and difficult problem or question.

    ‘one of the most difficult conundrums for the experts’
    • ‘He is a German refugee, a Jewish scientist specialising in relativity and its conundrums; she is a doctor's daughter, musical, ambitious, idealistic.’
    • ‘Children with recurrent abdominal pain present a difficult conundrum for doctors.’
    • ‘It is a dreadful and continuing conundrum for which it seems nobody has a convincing answer.’
    • ‘The problem remains a conundrum to me, and I hope others can propose ways of dealing with it.’
    • ‘I have not the answer to this conundrum that has become the bane of my existence.’
    • ‘The ensuing civil procedural history became a matter of prolonged legal debate on due process, but the religious coercion and its conundrums remained.’
    • ‘As it happens, though, the law deals with these semantic conundrums the same way it deals with many (though not all) semantic conundrums: by ignoring them.’
    • ‘The last two days may have finally supplied an answer to that conundrum.’
    • ‘It was written during the collapse of the Weimar Republic and given its premiere in Dresden in the first months of the Third Reich, and almost everything about it consists of conundrums and paradoxes.’
    • ‘The only answer to that conundrum is to extend the period during which these costs are paid, perhaps by loans, a graduate tax or a combination of both.’
    • ‘For the environmentalists, there was no getting around this difficult conundrum.’
    • ‘It's actually by focussing on this last point that investors can find the true answer to the conundrum.’
    • ‘The focus of discussion remains reframing the species problem as a linguistic conundrum.’
    • ‘This problem is at the heart of several conundrums concerning time.’
    • ‘Other than that, it can be something of a difficult ethical conundrum for somebody.’
    • ‘Despite the richness of the premise, which asks a number of bio-ethical questions, there is little room for complex moral conundrums once the adrenaline starts pumping.’
    • ‘When I awoke it was to the brilliant glowing answer to our little conundrum.’
    • ‘The answer to this conundrum is buried in the depths of the article.’
    • ‘The answer to this conundrum can be found at the heart of the society that he lived and work in.’
    • ‘Fortunately for all of us, we may never have to find out the answer to that conundrum.’
    problem, difficult question, vexed question, difficulty, quandary, dilemma
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    1. 1.1 A question asked for amusement, typically one with a pun in its answer; a riddle.
      • ‘Later on he successfully puzzled over the riddles of some bawdy conundrums.’
      • ‘Fortunately the answer to the conundrum came into reach as we shuffled along.’
      • ‘I can't seem to see a clear answer for this conundrum and therefore it sidetracks me and taunts me.’
      • ‘She said two puzzles in particular - a racing problem and ballerina conundrum - had needed a great deal of logical legwork.’
      • ‘Puns - and conundrums and charades, for that matter - are word games with an audience - quite literally, entertainments.’
      • ‘The conundrum is simply stated, even though the answer is complex.’
      • ‘Now there's a conundrum to puzzle a tired head to sleep.’
      riddle, puzzle, word game, anagram
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Late 16th century: of unknown origin, but first recorded in a work by Thomas Nashe, as a term of abuse for a crank or pedant, later coming to denote a whim or fancy, also a pun. Current senses date from the late 17th century.