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’
    • ‘Fleur plays Princess Turandot, declaring that she will marry the man who correctly answers her three riddles, while those who fail will be killed.’
    • ‘Answer the riddle, and your life shall be spared.’
    • ‘If you fail to answer his riddles correctly, you will not be allowed safe passage through the forest.’
    • ‘Some of the pictures are fascinating in that the images seem to pose little visual riddles.’
    • ‘Shorter answers every other question with a riddle and punctuates his conversation with statements such as ‘The only constant is change.’’
    • ‘Old Zen riddle: if a policy is announced and no one hears it, is it really announced?’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He regarded Haley with a critical eye, as if figuring out a riddle.’
    • ‘A prize that I will get if, and only if, I solve the secret riddle.’
    • ‘Her echo bounced from wall to wall, penetrating his ears like an unsolvable riddle.’
    • ‘Rob's words echoed through my brain, and they sounded like some cryptic riddle.’
    • ‘Many of Vermeer's paintings appear to pose riddles as to who sees whom and what, when.’
    • ‘She was pleased at herself as if she had just figured out a riddle.’
    • ‘Hamlet asks the gravediggers who is to be buried, but he receives riddles instead of answers.’
    • ‘Many riddles were embedded in rhymes, playfully disguising answers in metaphors and analogies.’
    • ‘Calaf is mesmerized by the princess' beauty and resolves to answer her three riddles and win her hand.’
    • ‘Midnight had arrived, but Leander still hadn't figured out the riddle.’
    • ‘Bilbo's next riddle is answered but he has trouble with Gollum's.’
    • ‘Here's a zen riddle: How lumpy must a sauce be before it can be called a vegetable?’
    • ‘Aspiring suitors have to answer three ridiculous riddles of the sort that do the rounds in Dublin pubs.’
    1. 1.1 A person or thing that is difficult to understand or explain:
      ‘the riddle of her death’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Each of us is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.’
      • ‘Yes, their coquettishness and evasions can exasperate men looking for an unequivocal answer to riddles of life and love.’
      • ‘Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful.’
      • ‘Cold comfort for the grieving Parks, who is now trying to solve the riddle of his granddaughter's death.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘His experiments on the lift and drag of an aircraft helped answer the riddle of how birds fly and led to new wing designs.’
      • ‘Whatever helps understand this riddle is significant, I am pleased that I, in a small way, did something with it.’
      • ‘The grieving friends of a York man who drowned in mysterious circumstances have launched a campaign to solve the riddle of his death.’
      • ‘Earlier this year, it had sat for weeks to unravel the riddle of the sinking.’
      • ‘Perhaps, to answer the riddle posed by the Palace substitution script, we should take a similar path.’
      • ‘But Grinsell was writing before the invention of radiocarbon dating - surely here was the chance to answer the riddle of the round skull?’
      • ‘Mirror neurons obviously cannot be the only answer to all these riddles of evolution.’
      • ‘Understanding exactly what capital is unlocks the riddle of the market system.’
      • ‘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 no one has answered the related riddle: Who wins if both sides bring their voters to the polls in record numbers?’
      puzzle, conundrum, brain-teaser, chinese puzzle, problem, unsolved problem, question, poser, enigma, mystery, quandary, paradox
      koan
      stumper
      View synonyms

verb

[NO OBJECT]archaic
  • 1 Speak 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. 1.1[with two objects] Solve or explain (a riddle) to (someone):
      ‘riddle me this then’

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’
    • ‘A year later, he is physically healed, but his memory is riddled with holes.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘However, these arguments are 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?’
    • ‘The jaws are riddled with small holes through which nerve bundles can relay electrical messages from the domes to the brain.’
    • ‘The truck was riddled with shrapnel holes and shards had punctured the fuel drums of two Challenger tanks.’
    • ‘As if the tonal mess weren't enough, the movie is riddled with plot holes that wreak increasing confusion.’
    • ‘Walls inside the restaurant were riddled with holes, wires dangled from the ceiling, and clusters of pipes were exposed.’
    • ‘But actually this bedrock is riddled with minute holes.’
    • ‘Around them, the walls were riddled with bullet holes.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The gunshot riddled body was in the driver's seat.’
    • ‘He noted that each of their bodies was riddled with bullet holes.’
    • ‘The bacterial onslaught changes the bone by riddling it with tiny holes.’
    • ‘The hydrants were not working and the hoses the fire officers were using to extinguish the blaze were riddled with holes.’
    • ‘A tree's roots had grown into the dam, and it was riddled with holes and in a very precarious condition.’
    • ‘Tables were riddled with bullet holes and the entire place was splattered with blood.’
    • ‘For a start, the enclosures are riddled with bullet holes.’
    • ‘Inside, one of the bodies was riddled with bullet holes and had clearly been executed.’
    • ‘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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Society is riddled with the cancer of crime and addiction and we can all agree that it is not getting any better.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Sumptuous maybe, but these programmes were riddled with stereotypes - setting suns, crowds of smiling children, inexplicable crazed violence - and had little new to say.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The account of a former Congress employee would suggest that management of the health care organisation is riddled with nepotism, corruption and incompetence.’
      • ‘Braedon helped out Hannah quite often, since the old woman was riddled with arthritis and unable to perform even the most basic tasks unaided.’
      • ‘The commentary and the questions were riddled with cliches, speculation and posturing - all very earnest but ultimately meaningless and confusing.’
      • ‘He discovered that the army's design calculations were riddled with flaws and mistaken assumptions, but these were ‘self-cancelling’.’
      • ‘It's a crumbling organisation that's riddled with police informers, drug dealers and pimps.’
      • ‘He essentially created that culture, riddled as it was with hypocrisy.’
      • ‘It is not Labour policy to freeze prescription charges and review a system that is riddled with anomalies.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It was riddled with informers and Lenin spent the majority of his time engaged in internal disputes with other socialists.’
      • ‘She talks about how the whole country was riddled with informers.’
      • ‘The rebels attack remote western provinces whose local governments are riddled with corruption, inefficiency and the effects of a cruel caste system.’
      • ‘If a novel was riddled with the flat-footed cliches that plague so many science books, the critics would skewer it.’
      • ‘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.’
      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.’
    • ‘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).’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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/