[mys.tery] n, pl -ter.ies [ME mysterie, fr. L mysterium, fr. Gk mysterion, fr. mystes initiate] (14c) 1 a: a religious truth that one can know only by revelation and cannot fully understand b (1): any of the 15 events (as the Nativity, the Crucifixion, or the Assumption) serving as a subject for meditation during the saying of the rosary (2) cap: a Christian sacrament; specif: eucharist c (1): a secret religious rite believed (as in Eleusinian and Mithraic cults) to impart enduring bliss to the initiate (2): a cult devoted to such rites
2. a: something not understood or beyond understanding: enigma b obs: a private secret c: the secret or specialized practices or ritual peculiar to an occupation or a body of people "the mysteries of the tailor's craft" d: a piece of fiction dealing usu. with the solution of a mysterious crime
3: profound, inexplicable, or secretive quality or character "the ~ of her smile" syn mystery, problem, enigma, riddle, puzzle mean something which baffles or perplexes. mystery applies to what cannot be fully understood by human reason or less strictly to whatever resists or defies explanation "the mystery of the stone monoliths". problem applies to any question or difficulty calling for a solution or causing concern "the problems created by high technology". enigma applies to utterance or behavior that is very difficult to interpret "his suicide was an enigma his family never understood". riddle suggests an enigma or problem involving paradox or apparent contradiction "the riddle of the reclusive pop star". puzzle applies to an enigma or problem that challenges ingenuity for its solution "the mechanisms of heredity were long a puzzle for scientists".
mystery n, pl -ter.ies [ME, fr. LL misterium, mysterium, alter. of ministerium service, occupation, fr. minister servant--more at minister] (14c) 1 archaic: trade, craft
2. archaic: a body of persons engaged in a particular trade, business, or profession: guild
3: mystery play