Meaning of PUZZLE in English


I. ˈpəzəl verb

( puzzled ; puzzled ; puzzling -z(ə)liŋ ; puzzles )

Etymology: origin unknown

transitive verb

1. obsolete : to make it difficult for (a person) to choose or carry out a course of action : bewilder , confound

more puzzled than the Egyptians in their fog — Shakespeare


a. : confuse , perplex

puzzle my sad brains about life — L.P.Smith

b. : to bewilder mentally : confuse or nonplus the understanding of

a malignant fever which puzzled the doctors — John Buchan

are often puzzled and sometimes annoyed by the ways of other peoples who are strange to us — W.A.Parker

3. archaic : to make intricate : complicate , entangle

disentangle from the puzzled skein — William Cowper

4. : to proceed along in a mentally laborious manner

teen-age boys who puzzle their way through geometry — Newsweek

intransitive verb


a. : to be uncertain as to action or choice : become bewildered or perplexed

we puzzled for two moons about where to put you — Nora Waln

b. : to exercise one's mind : attempt a solution of a puzzle

I puzzled over her words and sought to attach to them some intelligent meaning — Rafael Sabatini

2. : to search in a confused manner : grope

puzzled about in his desk for the missing file of letters


mystify , perplex , bewilder , distract , nonplus , confound , dumbfounded : these verbs in the uses here compared all signify to disturb mentally, baffle, or throw into mental disorder or immobility. puzzle and mystify both suggest a complication or intricacy difficult to understand or explain, mystify suggesting more often a complication purposely created as by the concealment or obscuring of essential fact

the questions which doubtless puzzle most of us — Town Journal

the secret of the enigma that puzzled me — L.P.Smith

it was the riddle of life that was puzzling and killing her — Arnold Bennett

why more visitors to South America do not take this memorable river trip mystifies my wife and me — L.A.Keating

once prescriptions were written almost altogether in Latin. This was not done to mystify the patient — Morris Fishbein

historical paraphernalia with which to mystify their unsuspecting clients — American Guide Series: New York

perplex and bewilder add the ideas of uncertainty and, often, worry to that of puzzlement, bewilder implying a consequent and usually complete intellectual disorder

on their arrival they were perplexed by radical differences in language, customs, and environment — American Guide Series: Rhode Island

Gates was greatly perplexed to know what to do — H.E.Scudder

they were perplexed, vexed and worried — Ernie Pyle

textbooks in bewildering variety confronted the pioneer teacher — American Guide Series: Washington

the bewildering confusion of our times — Matthew Arnold

a character bewildered by a confusion of values — R.B.West

distract suggests the perturbation of an uncertain though not necessarily puzzled or bewildered mind, implying, rather, strongly conflicting preoccupations or interests

his fury is that of a temporarily distracted boy — Walter Goodman

a man distracted between two spiritual homes — Time

the conflict of races and religions which had so long distracted the island — T.B.Macaulay

nonplus suggests a blankness of mind often attendant upon complete bafflement

the pilots write: — “It was imperative that we should not find ourselves nonplussed in an emergency in the air …” — Times Literary Supplement

the problem which nonplusses the wisest heads on this planet … What is reality? — L.P.Smith

she was utterly nonplussed by the pair of them … What on earth were they? — Elizabeth Goudge

confound implies a mental confusion attendant upon astonishment or complete abashment

professional critics … should be confounded by the book's evidence of careful research — Beka Doherty

someone who can furnish him with the sort of evidence of the authenticity of his picture that would satisfy a special juryman and confound a purchasing dealer — Clive Bell

dumbfound may be interchangeable with confound but usually suggests a stronger effect, a confounding to the point of mental paralysis or wonderment

to be so dumbfounded as to be unable to speak for a moment

apparently too dumbfounded by the insane assault to interfere seriously — Al Newman

his schoolmates are astonished; his fellow-soldiers are dumbfounded — J.M.Brinnin

II. noun

( -s )

1. : the state of being puzzled : mental embarrassment : perplexity

the transition from a state of puzzle and perplexity to rational comprehension — William James


a. : something that puzzles : a difficult question or problem

it is more a puzzle than a comfort to see those children growing so fine and straight — Claudia Cassidy

this young man was an unaccountable puzzle — J.H.Powers

b. : a question, problem, toy, or contrivance designed for testing ingenuity — see chinese puzzle , crossword , jigsaw puzzle

Synonyms: see mystery

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.