Definition of puzzle in English:



  • 1 Cause (someone) to feel confused because they cannot understand something.

    ‘she was puzzled by the doctor's manner’
    • ‘In other rich people news, we're still puzzled beyond belief by the whole McCartney story.’
    • ‘It puzzles me why this is beyond Kerry's understanding.’
    • ‘This puzzled the doctors and some even thought it had something to do with the supernatural.’
    • ‘Mention also needs to be made about one related aspect of the current education system that puzzles me.’
    • ‘It just puzzles me why they didn't kill the Doctor when they had the chance.’
    • ‘I can understand why you are puzzled, and certainly there is a somewhat surprising explanation for this.’
    • ‘Doctors were puzzled because the fungus was thought to be found only in mosquitoes and other insects.’
    • ‘I will take just a very quick call to sort out one or two things that are obviously puzzling people.’
    • ‘It puzzles me why so many people seem so unwilling to understand this.’
    • ‘The doctor was puzzled, for the disease must have taken hold long ago.’
    • ‘For weeks it was a mystery which had puzzled the people of Bamford - an eagle owl perched on an electricity pylon.’
    • ‘It puzzles me that a person starting up a business can't even afford a sign-writer.’
    • ‘Both of these eccentricities puzzle people and often offend them. -’
    • ‘I am very puzzled why people with no helmets are stopped by police and these extremely noisy bikes have a free range.’
    • ‘Her doctor is puzzled how she walked around with such a big gash without feeling a thing, and it is odd.’
    • ‘And here you have the explanation of that great riddle which used to puzzle people - evil and pain.’
    • ‘The people who puzzle him are those who don't read it and still hate it.’
    • ‘I was puzzled that my doctor saw this as a cause for celebration but they are a breed apart.’
    • ‘Local people are puzzled by the find and were disgusted that anyone would dump carcasses in such a way.’
    • ‘We were puzzled by your remark that you had the standard and there is no other design, so we did a little detective work.’
    perplexed, confused, bewildered, bemused, baffled, mystified, confounded, nonplussed, at a loss, at sea
    flummoxed, discombobulated, stumped, fazed, clueless, without a clue
    wildered, gravelled, mazed
    puzzling, bewildering, perplexing, mystifying, bemusing, confusing, unclear, difficult to understand, hard to understand, beyond one, above one's head
    perplex, confuse, bewilder, bemuse, baffle, mystify, confound, nonplus, throw, set someone thinking
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    1. 1.1[no object]Think hard about something because one cannot understand it.
      ‘she was still puzzling over this problem when she reached the office’
      • ‘Yet they maintain just enough ambiguity so that the audience is left still puzzling over the piece afterwards.’
      • ‘I'm still puzzling over the film almost a week after seeing it and have no precedent as to whether this means I'll like it or not.’
      • ‘There's a sinister tie-in with Social Security, too, that needs puzzling over.’
      • ‘In fact, critics around the world have been puzzling over how to classify Donnie Darko.’
      • ‘His mind flew from one wild idea to another as he tried to puzzle out the reason she was closeted in her room like that.’
      • ‘Many happy hours can be spent puzzling over how to interpret this cheaply.’
      • ‘I puzzled for quite a long time over the sort of threshold that I thought might be most appropriate.’
      • ‘Statisticians are puzzling over some peculiar trends in vehicle sales.’
      • ‘I can't sit puzzling over words when there are fresh-baked cakes to nibble.’
      • ‘So next time you are puzzling over a piece of art, take more note of its context.’
      • ‘All week I've been puzzling as to why there's been a heavy-duty garden sack neatly covering our washing basket.’
      • ‘But that has not stopped some observers puzzling over why Kingdom should go public.’
      • ‘I just won't be spending a lot of time in the meantime puzzling over her identity.’
      • ‘Vivienne asked, puzzling over how his skin felt quite warm under her fingertips.’
      • ‘John puzzled at the possible reasons for the break in speech, but decided that reason had very little to do with it.’
      • ‘Just as they are puzzling over the bizarre anomaly, something more shocking happens.’
      think hard about, give much thought to, rack one's brains about, mull over, muse over, ponder, brood about, contemplate, meditate on, consider, reflect on, deliberate on, chew over, turn over in one's mind, cogitate on, wonder about, ask oneself about
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    2. 1.2Solve or understand something by thinking hard.
      ‘she was trying to puzzle out who the speakers were’
      • ‘And there's something I need to work on about forgiveness, to myself and others, but I haven't puzzled it out quite yet.’
      • ‘I shall not identify which daughter said which thing, leaving it as a task for the reader to puzzle it out.’
      • ‘There may have been some interesting birds hidden behind the flocks of Canada Geese and American Black Duck, but we were too cold to puzzle them out.’
      • ‘Tam was sitting up in her cage, trying to puzzle things out.’
      • ‘If you can't use a dictionary to puzzle things out in a script, you are in trouble as an actor.’
      • ‘I present it for folks who are better at puzzling their way out of things.’
      • ‘It'll irritate me, this will, until I've puzzled it out.’
      • ‘Which means that eight years after arriving in the valley, he's still puzzling things out.’
      • ‘He was trying to puzzle things out when an orb of light came slowly down into the crevice.’
      • ‘I'm still trying to puzzle out how the Slayer's ersatz sister figures into everything.’
      work out, understand, comprehend, think out, think through, sort out, reason out, solve, make sense of, get to the bottom of, make head or tail of, unravel, untangle, decipher, decode, find the key to, piece together
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  • 1A game, toy, or problem designed to test ingenuity or knowledge.

    ‘those who solve this puzzle in the shortest time are eligible for awards’
    ‘a book with picture puzzles’
    • ‘It includes one of the games only jumping puzzles.’
    • ‘There are some puzzles in the game, but nothing too brain taxing.’
    • ‘Much of the game's puzzle solving requires an equal amount of careful exploration and item manipulation.’
    • ‘Basically, it would be the equivalent of solving a puzzle in a video game.’
    • ‘The puzzle designs are very inspired and fit perfectly into the game.’
    • ‘In fact, you'll be required to switch between the two to solve many of the game's puzzles.’
    • ‘The biggest factor that can make or break an adventure game is its puzzles.’
    • ‘The game was supposedly invented by a French count who was incarcerated in prison and is really a puzzle more than a game.’
    • ‘For example, the Saboteur mutator turns a solitaire puzzle into a three-player game.’
    • ‘Ted uses lots of catchy songs, puzzles and word games to help the children have fun and learn while watching.’
    • ‘Logic puzzles and strategy games represent another category of possible interest to the mathematically inclined.’
    • ‘Any puzzle, or solitaire game, can be turned into a multi-player game by making a contest out of solving it.’
    • ‘The meat and potatoes of adventure games are puzzles and dialogue between characters.’
    • ‘A good puzzle game tests logic, reflexes and wit in the act of problem solving.’
    • ‘There are better puzzle games out there, that offer more absorbing and addictive bouts of rapid, simple fun.’
    • ‘The closest I've got is Venice Connection which is as much a puzzle as a game.’
    • ‘Also, several on-the-spot events like computer games and puzzles were conducted.’
    • ‘They will play games, solve puzzles, and ask questions like: Why can I remember baseball scores but forget where I put my keys?’
    • ‘Many of the game's platform puzzles require you to double-jump across vast chasms.’
    • ‘Like a video game or a puzzle, it is a chance to think, learn and show off.’
    1. 1.1A jigsaw puzzle.
      figurative ‘so the pieces of the puzzle fall into place’
      • ‘The jig-saw puzzle of nation states in Africa, which defies geopolitical and economic logic, is simply the legacy of Europe's sharing out of Africa.’
      • ‘It's not as though anything is actually is happening, yet pieces of the puzzle fall out of the box all the time.’
      • ‘I have mixed the pieces for all three puzzles together.’
      • ‘She says the process has been like putting together a jig saw puzzle.’
      • ‘I guessed as the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.’
      • ‘The child may then have problems with steps, climbing or with puzzles like jigsaws.’
      • ‘As he finished speaking, several pieces of the puzzle fell together.’
      • ‘Another small piece of the puzzle fell into place for me.’
      • ‘We all blinked as that piece of the puzzle fell into place, and said a perfectly chorused, ‘Hello.’’
      • ‘The pieces of his memory fell together like a puzzle, as he mentally went through what had happened to him.’
      • ‘It was Luke's face assaulting me with that tender ease, every touch and laugh like a puzzle piece falling into place.’
      • ‘It was like the whole puzzle had fallen off the table.’
      • ‘Well, I guess it's the way you put the puzzles pieces in the right places.’
      • ‘Is Sunda to Sahul a board game that looks like a puzzle or a puzzle with some board game elements?’
      • ‘If it does, it might be one of the pieces of the jigsaw to these puzzles.’
      • ‘There are also photographs, giant fungi, jig-saw puzzles, and lots of twinkle lights.’
      • ‘They couldn't police a child's jig saw puzzle; probably because they haven't the wish to do so.’
      • ‘It seems similar in the way the pieces of the puzzle fall together.’
      • ‘And of course, a truckload of educational toys, books, puzzles, games and music.’
      • ‘On one side, the children tried their expertise in various games that ranged from puzzles to hitting the ‘bull's eye.’’
  • 2A person or thing that is difficult to understand or explain; an enigma.

    ‘the meaning of the poem has always been a puzzle’
    • ‘Only the feel bad factor explains puzzles about the fuel protests.’
    • ‘The way the managers make sense of this puzzle is best explained in the different economic models for company performance.’
    • ‘Your intellect and intelligence may have others constantly asking for your help with things that take a lot of thought or are difficult puzzles.’
    • ‘Even if that were true, however, it would not be a good reason to give up trying to understand the puzzle.’
    • ‘If Moylan was correct, this goes some way toward explaining the puzzle of the timing of McGee's assassination.’
    • ‘James makes an interesting stab at trying to explain these puzzles.’
    • ‘They remain enigmatic puzzles meant to be meditated on, in the same way that we consider a Magritte.’
    • ‘Chechnya, a puzzle within this great unknown, is even less understood.’
    • ‘It looks as if pure puzzles really are what mystery readers like best.’
    • ‘The Two Reconstructions explains a puzzle that lies at the heart of America's development as a political democracy.’
    • ‘Well, there's something to this, but is there really a puzzle to explain?’
    • ‘We can make these puzzles so difficult that it would take a champion six hours to complete one.’
    • ‘Deciding which end is which has always been a puzzle, but now I know.’
    • ‘When a puzzle is not explainable through sound, rational argument then perforce we need to look at the less rational domain.’
    • ‘While I cannot hope to resolve the puzzle, I can explain why I come to this conclusion.’
    • ‘What is left is the puzzle and the enigma that we need to figure out.’
    • ‘I sat for a couple of years at the table of the Security Council and was exposed daily to real puzzles about exactly the question you ask.’
    • ‘It has always been a puzzle to me that a man so brilliant and personally kind can occasionally err in such judgments.’
    • ‘These puzzles are not difficult or complicated, they are simple and straightforward.’
    • ‘There may yet be other solutions to this difficult puzzle.’
    enigma, mystery, paradox, conundrum, poser, riddle, question, question mark, problem
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Late 16th century (as a verb): of unknown origin.