Main definitions of riddle in English

: riddle1riddle2

riddle1

noun

  • 1A question or statement intentionally phrased so as to require ingenuity in ascertaining its answer or meaning.

    ‘they started asking riddles and telling jokes’
    • ‘Her echo bounced from wall to wall, penetrating his ears like an unsolvable riddle.’
    • ‘Old Zen riddle: if a policy is announced and no one hears it, is it really announced?’
    • ‘She was pleased at herself as if she had just figured out a riddle.’
    • ‘Many of Vermeer's paintings appear to pose riddles as to who sees whom and what, when.’
    • ‘Shorter answers every other question with a riddle and punctuates his conversation with statements such as ‘The only constant is change.’’
    • ‘If you fail to answer his riddles correctly, you will not be allowed safe passage through the forest.’
    • ‘Midnight had arrived, but Leander still hadn't figured out the riddle.’
    • ‘Rob's words echoed through my brain, and they sounded like some cryptic riddle.’
    • ‘Many riddles were embedded in rhymes, playfully disguising answers in metaphors and analogies.’
    • ‘Fleur plays Princess Turandot, declaring that she will marry the man who correctly answers her three riddles, while those who fail will be killed.’
    • ‘A prize that I will get if, and only if, I solve the secret riddle.’
    • ‘Answer the riddle, and your life shall be spared.’
    • ‘During the latest bachelor party, a man in an ape suit served as master of ceremonies as guests were required to answer a series of riddles.’
    • ‘Bilbo's next riddle is answered but he has trouble with Gollum's.’
    • ‘Hamlet asks the gravediggers who is to be buried, but he receives riddles instead of answers.’
    • ‘He regarded Haley with a critical eye, as if figuring out a riddle.’
    • ‘Some of the pictures are fascinating in that the images seem to pose little visual riddles.’
    • ‘Calaf is mesmerized by the princess' beauty and resolves to answer her three riddles and win her hand.’
    • ‘Aspiring suitors have to answer three ridiculous riddles of the sort that do the rounds in Dublin pubs.’
    • ‘Here's a zen riddle: How lumpy must a sauce be before it can be called a vegetable?’
    1. 1.1 A person or thing that is difficult to understand or explain.
      ‘the riddle of her death’
      • ‘Earlier this year, it had sat for weeks to unravel the riddle of the sinking.’
      • ‘Understanding exactly what capital is unlocks the riddle of the market system.’
      • ‘Yes, their coquettishness and evasions can exasperate men looking for an unequivocal answer to riddles of life and love.’
      • ‘But no one has answered the related riddle: Who wins if both sides bring their voters to the polls in record numbers?’
      • ‘Whatever the answer to the riddle of quantum reality, the correct assessment of the role and meaning of observers in the Universe must await the outcome of the confrontation of the Cosmos with the quantum.’
      • ‘Mirror neurons obviously cannot be the only answer to all these riddles of evolution.’
      • ‘Cold comfort for the grieving Parks, who is now trying to solve the riddle of his granddaughter's death.’
      • ‘Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful.’
      • ‘Whatever helps understand this riddle is significant, I am pleased that I, in a small way, did something with it.’
      • ‘The first answer to the riddle of existence, therefore, is that substance exists, and exists necessarily.’
      • ‘But only one asset will help us crack the US interest rate riddle: patience.’
      • ‘Perhaps, to answer the riddle posed by the Palace substitution script, we should take a similar path.’
      • ‘The grieving friends of a York man who drowned in mysterious circumstances have launched a campaign to solve the riddle of his death.’
      • ‘His experiments on the lift and drag of an aircraft helped answer the riddle of how birds fly and led to new wing designs.’
      • ‘Advancing age has occasionally brought resolution, more often just a little understanding, to many of these riddles, but not necessarily to the resilient ambiguity of history.’
      • ‘They were words she could not understand, but still she searched among them for some clue, some answer to the riddle of her life.’
      • ‘But Grinsell was writing before the invention of radiocarbon dating - surely here was the chance to answer the riddle of the round skull?’
      • ‘Not only has it helped to explain life's innermost riddles, but it has posed challenging questions about human behaviour and ethics, and offered controversial new technologies.’
      • ‘A set of hypotheses has been suggested to explain this exceptional riddle of fish reproduction, but as yet they remain untested.’
      • ‘Each of us is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.’
      puzzle, conundrum, brain-teaser, chinese puzzle, problem, unsolved problem, question, poser, enigma, mystery, quandary, paradox
      View synonyms

verb

[NO OBJECT]archaic
  • 1Speak in or pose riddles.

    ‘he who knows not how to riddle’
    • ‘Small touches in each of these short stories illustrate Edgeworth's use of codes and riddling.’
    • ‘The clown Feste has incurred Olivia's displeasure by a long absence, but contrives to regain her favour by riddling that she is more foolish than he for mourning that her brother is in Heaven.’
    1. 1.1with two objects Solve or explain (a riddle) to (someone)
      ‘riddle me this then’

Phrases

  • talk (or speak) in riddles

    • Express oneself in an ambiguous or puzzling manner.

      ‘you're talking in riddles—do you mean his mother?’
      • ‘Pleat preferred to talk in riddles about the future of the club rather than the game, which Spurs won thanks to two fine individual goals.’
      • ‘He speaks in riddles; no one understands a word he says.’
      • ‘He speaks in riddles, shrouds his decisions in mystery, never gives individual interviews and is so paranoid at being misquoted that he refuses to have his sphinx-like utterances translated into English.’
      • ‘The members start wearing fancy dress and talking in riddles and inventing elaborate codes of conduct.’
      • ‘Would you please just stop talking in riddles?’
      • ‘Sorry if it sounds like I'm talking in riddles here.’
      • ‘Anyone walking through the Looking Glass would be transported instantly into Wonderland, a world where animals talked in riddles and common sense wasn't so common.’
      • ‘There were reports of a permanently stoned Perry walking backwards and talking in riddles while striking the ground with a hammer.’
      • ‘Out of respect to tradition, I always make a point of speaking in riddles or of burying my very best prophecies in a set of casual, seemingly off-hand remarks.’
      • ‘I point out that I'm here to find out stuff, not talk in riddles.’

Origin

Old English rǣdels, rǣdelse ‘opinion, conjecture, riddle’; related to Dutch raadsel, German Rätsel, also to read.

Pronunciation

riddle

/ˈrɪd(ə)l/

Main definitions of riddle in English

: riddle1riddle2

riddle2

verb

[WITH OBJECT]
  • 1Make many holes in (someone or something), especially with gunshot.

    ‘his car was riddled by sniper fire’
    • ‘However, these arguments are riddled with holes.’
    • ‘The bacterial onslaught changes the bone by riddling it with tiny holes.’
    • ‘As if the tonal mess weren't enough, the movie is riddled with plot holes that wreak increasing confusion.’
    • ‘But actually this bedrock is riddled with minute holes.’
    • ‘Inside, one of the bodies was riddled with bullet holes and had clearly been executed.’
    • ‘The jaws are riddled with small holes through which nerve bundles can relay electrical messages from the domes to the brain.’
    • ‘A 19-year-old man was killed and four other people, including a pregnant woman, were injured when their car was riddled with bullets by the soldiers.’
    • ‘Walls inside the restaurant were riddled with holes, wires dangled from the ceiling, and clusters of pipes were exposed.’
    • ‘For a start, the enclosures are riddled with bullet holes.’
    • ‘The hydrants were not working and the hoses the fire officers were using to extinguish the blaze were riddled with holes.’
    • ‘The gunshot riddled body was in the driver's seat.’
    • ‘An ammunition box inside a Huey helicopter that crashed in 1968 is riddled with bullet holes from ammunition that exploded inside during the ensuing fire.’
    • ‘The truck was riddled with shrapnel holes and shards had punctured the fuel drums of two Challenger tanks.’
    • ‘He noted that each of their bodies was riddled with bullet holes.’
    • ‘Tables were riddled with bullet holes and the entire place was splattered with blood.’
    • ‘A year later, he is physically healed, but his memory is riddled with holes.’
    • ‘If you stop to think about it, the film is riddled with such holes - why for example does nobody actually catch the virulent super-virus from either of the unfortunate characters injected with it?’
    • ‘Around them, the walls were riddled with bullet holes.’
    • ‘A tree's roots had grown into the dam, and it was riddled with holes and in a very precarious condition.’
    • ‘As you say, almost all software vendors do very shoddy work, and most large systems are riddled with holes.’
    perforate, hole, make holes in, punch holes in, put holes in, pierce, penetrate, puncture, honeycomb, pepper
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Fill or permeate (someone or something), especially with something undesirable.
      ‘the existing law is riddled with loopholes’
      ‘her body was riddled with arthritis’
      • ‘It is not Labour policy to freeze prescription charges and review a system that is riddled with anomalies.’
      • ‘She talks about how the whole country was riddled with informers.’
      • ‘He discovered that the army's design calculations were riddled with flaws and mistaken assumptions, but these were ‘self-cancelling’.’
      • ‘Braedon helped out Hannah quite often, since the old woman was riddled with arthritis and unable to perform even the most basic tasks unaided.’
      • ‘Highlights include just about every fight sequence, riddled as they are with traditional moves, wire work and a lot of cheeky CGI that makes this more fun than a Jackie Chan flick, but still respectful of the genre.’
      • ‘A review of the number of prisoners on the run has been ordered after it emerged the current list is riddled with mistakes and includes inmates who might be dead or were at large as far back as the 1980s.’
      • ‘The rebels attack remote western provinces whose local governments are riddled with corruption, inefficiency and the effects of a cruel caste system.’
      • ‘Sumptuous maybe, but these programmes were riddled with stereotypes - setting suns, crowds of smiling children, inexplicable crazed violence - and had little new to say.’
      • ‘If a novel was riddled with the flat-footed cliches that plague so many science books, the critics would skewer it.’
      • ‘It's a crumbling organisation that's riddled with police informers, drug dealers and pimps.’
      • ‘The 76-year-old from Southend Road, Wickford, was tricked into believing his roof was riddled with woodworm and in danger of collapsing without major repair work.’
      • ‘The commentary and the questions were riddled with cliches, speculation and posturing - all very earnest but ultimately meaningless and confusing.’
      • ‘He essentially created that culture, riddled as it was with hypocrisy.’
      • ‘It was riddled with informers and Lenin spent the majority of his time engaged in internal disputes with other socialists.’
      • ‘The account of a former Congress employee would suggest that management of the health care organisation is riddled with nepotism, corruption and incompetence.’
      • ‘It is simply impossible to have a death penalty - the judiciary are riddled with prejudices and the judicial system is filled with flaws, and innocent people will be executed.’
      • ‘Malcolm Chapman, a former non-executive of Semple, said: ‘The document is so riddled with errors it is barely worth commenting on.’’
      • ‘It riddles you like the most aggressive cancer, filling every pore, every nook and cranny.’
      • ‘His reasoning on wages, even without the nonsense about education and swearing, is less sound, riddled as it is with dubious comparative references to other people's earnings.’
      • ‘Society is riddled with the cancer of crime and addiction and we can all agree that it is not getting any better.’
      permeate, suffuse, fill, pervade, spread through, imbue, inform, charge, saturate, overrun, take over, overspread, infiltrate, run through, filter through, be diffused through, invade, beset, pester, plague
      View synonyms
  • 2Pass (a substance) through a large coarse sieve.

    ‘for final potting, the soil mixture is not riddled’
    • ‘This was put to use every autumn to power the large and venerable threshing machine, with its elevator and shaking, riddling sieves.’
    • ‘Brown observed to Poole that the miners could typically make the same or slightly more money and produce more coal per day, saved as they were the labor of riddling.’
    • ‘A day and a half of digging and riddling had produced several piles of authentic clayish undersoil (known as sammel and by various other names in areas where Regia membership is high).’
    • ‘Made of some combination of tannins, bentonites, gelatines, or alginates, they help to produce a uniform skin-like yeast deposit that does not stick to the glass but slips easily down it during the riddling process.’
    sieve, sift, strain, screen, filter, purify, refine, winnow
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1 Remove ashes or other unwanted material from (something, especially a fire or stove) with a sieve.
      ‘she heard Mr Evans riddling the fire’

noun

  • A large coarse sieve, especially one used for separating ashes from cinders or sand from gravel.

    • ‘For inside the mill, the shelling stones began to turn, the riddles (large-meshed sieves) rhythmically shook and the millstones ground round and round.’
    • ‘I then re-sieve it through a maggot riddle to remove the lumps.’

Origin

Late Old English hriddel, of Germanic origin; from an Indo-European root shared by Latin cribrum ‘sieve’, cernere ‘separate’, and Greek krinein ‘decide’.

Pronunciation

riddle

/ˈrɪd(ə)l/