The Meaning of Enigma: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of enigma? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word enigma, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word enigma mean?

According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language and Collins English Dictionary, the word enigma means a mystery, riddle, or something that is very difficult to understand. Enigma has three syllables – e-nig-ma, and the pronunciation of enigma is  ɪˈnɪɡmə . The military use of enigma was used in World War II to refer to a German-built enciphering machine developed for commercial use which was adapted and appropriated by German and other Axis powers.

Different languages around the world use words that mean enigma. In looking at this list of translations of enigma from Word Sense, you may notice that a lot of these look and sound similar to the word enigma. These are called cognates, which are often formed when two words have the same root or language of origin. 

  •  Asturian: enigma‎ (masc.)
  •  Italian: enigma‎ (masc.)
  •  Icelandic: ráðgáta‎
  •  Portuguese: enigma‎ (masc.), mistério‎ (masc.)
  •  Hebrew: חִידָה‎
  •  Arabic: غامض‎
  •  Catalan: enigma‎ (masc.)
  •  Japanese: 謎‎
  •  Mandarin: 謎‎, 谜‎ (mí)
  •  Swedish: enigma‎
  •  Occitan: enigma‎
  •  Walloon: cwacwa‎ (masc.), enike‎ (fem.)
  •  Scottish Gaelic: dubh-fhacal‎ (masc.), dubh-cheist‎ (fem.)
  •  Spanish: enigma‎ (masc.)
  •  Russian: зага́дка‎ (fem.)
  •  Bulgarian: мистерия‎ (fem.)
  •  Interlingua: enigma‎
  •  Persian: معما‎ (mo’ammâ)
  •  Esperanto: enigmo‎
  •  Galician: enigma‎ (masc.)
  •  Armenian: առեղծված‎
  •  Slovak: záhada‎ (fem.)
  •  Romanian: enigmă‎ (fem.)
  •  Czech: záhada‎ (fem.)
  •  French: énigme‎ (fem.)
  •  Japanese: 謎‎
  •  German: Rätsel‎ (masc.)
  •  Finnish: arvoitus‎, mysteeri‎
  •  Latin: aenigma‎ (neut.)
  •  French: énigme‎ (fem.)
  •  Greek: αίνιγμα‎ (neut.)

What is the origin of the word enigma?

According to Etymonline, the word enigma comes from the Latin aenigma, Greek ainigma and Greek aínigma. This is a derivative of aînos fable/ainos fable, and is written as the ancient Greek αἴνιγμα. This and ainig are variants of a stem of ainíssesthai/ainissesthai (-ssesqai) (Gr.) and come from the word ainos.

How can the word enigma be used in a sentence?

The word rational can be used in many different sentences in the English language. Using words in a sentence is a great way to memorize their definitions. You can also try making flashcards or quizzes to test your knowledge of the definitions of many different words. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today. You never know, it might become one of your new favorites. Below are a couple of examples of an enigma  to get you started.

The disappearance of the contradictory character was an inexplicable occurrence and enigma in the early 1920s. The detective knew these scaly enigmas had a hidden meaning and shifted her course course of conduct to investigate them She pulled down her cap and went on her way. 

The wife of the Wall Street billionaire class was in tears when she hears about the end of his short life, but her mode of action was cause for much speculation and was a big of an enigma – what could be her motives after all?

The enterprise software was a bit of an enigma to Varki at Princeton University. He tried to get in touch with the man who made it at the top of China, Zhong, but he would not reveal anything about his new research, known lighting, or obscure words  he used in the coding.

The chicken and the egg cause of a phenomenon is one of the greatest enigmas of the biological universe to be made into a discovery.

What are synonyms and antonyms of the word enigma?

There are a number of different words that a person can choose to use in place of the word enigma (ɪˈnɪgmə). These equivalent words are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning or definition as another given word or phrase. Learning synonyms is a great way to easily expand your English language vocabulary and help you avoid repeating yourself when writing or speaking. The below list of synonyms for the word enigma is provided by Power Thesaurus

  •  doubt
  •  puzzler
  •  mystification
  •  double-entendre
  •  inscrutability
  •  ambiguity
  •  dubiousness
  •  sphinx
  •  anagram
  •  polysemy
  •  head-scratcher
  •  problem
  •  sticker
  •  mysteries
  •  mystery
  •  self-contradiction
  •  quandary
  •  puzzle
  •  rebus
  •  perplexity
  •  twister
  •  poser
  •  crossword
  •  labyrinth
  •  grabber
  •  chiller
  •  brain-twister
  •  tough nut to crack
  •  vexed question
  •  puzzlement
  •  stickler
  •  classified information
  •  dilemma
  •  puzzles
  •  polysemousness
  •  fair question
  •  brain teaser
  •  obscurity
  •  paradox
  •  rebuses
  •  sixty-four dollar question
  •  why
  •  code
  •  bone of contention
  •  oxymoron
  •  quiz
  •  braintwister
  •  charade
  •  cipher
  •  ruddles
  •  parable
  •  inconsistency
  •  challenge
  •  inconclusiveness
  •  mysteriousness
  •  discord
  •  difficulty
  •  incongruity
  •  question mark
  •  brainteaser
  •  moot point
  •  secrets
  •  arcanum
  •  equivocacy
  •  inscrutableness
  •  uncertainty
  •  riddle
  •  gordian knot
  •  chinese puzzle
  •  nonsense
  •  teaser
  •  confusion
  •  cryptogram
  •  secrecy
  •  mystique
  •  mind-boggler
  •  conundrum
  •  closed book
  •  tough proposition
  •  mystery story
  •  knot
  •  anomaly
  •  secret
  •  knotty point
  •  cliff-hanger
  •  unclearness
  •  question
  •  riddles
  •  crux
  •  thriller
  •  brain-teaser
  •  crossword puzzle
  •  bewilderment
  •  maze
  •  trouble
  •  whodunit
  •  privileged information
  •  stumper
  •  unsolved problem

There are also plenty of different words that have the opposite meaning of the word enigma. These opposite words are called antonyms, which are another great, quick and easy way to expand your English language vocabulary. This list of antonyms is also provided by Power Thesaurus.

  •  explication
  •  definiteness
  •  brightness
  •  evaluation
  •  explicitness
  •  neatness
  •  clarity
  •  plainness
  •  transparency
  •  standard
  •  clarification
  •  resolution
  •  solution
  •  confidence
  •  discretion
  •  explanation
  •  certainty
  •  limpidity
  •  conviction
  •  accuracy
  •  key
  •  sense
  •  lucidity
  •  perspicuity
  •  unambiguity
  •  acuity
  •  obviousness
  •  comprehensibility
  •  success
  •  aphorism
  •  answer
  •  same
  •  regularity
  •  usualness
  •  normality
  •  simplicity
  •  clear understanding
  •  interpretation
  •  articulateness
  •  discernment
  •  clearness
  •  understanding
  •  definition
  •  open book
  •  correction
  •  truth
  •  illumination

Overall, the word enigma means an inexplicable saying, mystery or riddle. This word is the opposite of a known thing. This word is Greek in origin and can be used in many different scenarios to describe something that is confusing or unclear.


  1. Enigma synonyms – 730 Words and Phrases for Enigma | Power Thesaurus 
  2. Enigma antonyms – 166 Opposites of Enigma | Power Thesaurus 
  3. enigma: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  4. Enigma definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary
  5. enigma | Origin and meaning of enigma | Online Etymology Dictionary