(Greek ainigma > Latin aenigma: dark saying, riddle, fable; from ainissesthai, "to speak darkly, to speak in riddles")

enigma (s) (noun), enigmas (pl)
1. Something which, or someone who, is ambiguous, inexplicable, or not easily understood: Jim has an enigma regarding the collection of tools that he has because he can't figure out how to use some of them.
2. A perplexing, obscure, mysterious, or unintelligible speech or behavior: Just why the governor suddenly switched political parties remains an enigma to everyone who knew him.
3. Anything that cannot be comprehended or determined: The veterinarian was finally able to solve the enigma of the dog's sudden death.

The enigma of the man's weird behavior could not be explained because no one had any idea why he was doing such silly things as hiding behind a wall.

4. Etymology: borrowed from Latin aenigma, "riddle"; from Greek aninigma, ainigmatos which came from ainissesthai, "to speak allusively or obscurely; to talk in riddles".
A riddle or anything that perplexes or baffles others.
© ALL rights are reserved.

Go to this Word A Day Revisited Index
so you can see more of Mickey Bach's cartoons.

enigmatic (adjective), more enigmatic, most enigmatic
1. A reference to something that is hard to explain; mysterious: The Mona Lisa is said to have an enigmatic smile.

For some enigmatic reason, the politician was reelected despite all of the criticism about her policies.

2. Etymology: in the early 17th century, from French enimatique which was borrowed from Latin aenigmaticus and possibly based on Greek ainigma, "riddle".
Puzzling and unexplainable.
© ALL rights are reserved.

Go to this Word A Day Revisited Index
so you can see more of Mickey Bach's cartoons.

enigmatical (adjective), more enigmatical, most enigmatical
Pertaining to anything that is difficult to interpret, to conceive, or to explain: Marvin Bank's enigmatical explanation as to why he couldn't show up for work was not understood by his supervisor.
enigmatically (adverb), more enigmatically, most enigmatically
Characterized by being full of mystery and being difficult to comprehend: Shirley was often smiling enigmatically whenever her sister spoke to her.
enigmatist (s) (noun), enigmatists (pl)
A maker or producer of riddles: Gisela was a well-known enigmatist who produced puzzles in the form of questions and rhymes that contained clues to the answers.

One question written by the enigmatist was: "Why did Sam get a job at the bakery? Because he kneaded dough".

enigmatize (verb), enigmatizes; enigmatized; enigmatizing
To make, or to talk in a complicated and obfuscated manner: Adam's friends thought he was enigmatizing his real physical condition.
enigmatographer (s) (noun), enigmatographers (pl)
1. Someone who creates and writes riddles: As a professional enigmatographer, Fred compiled a book of word puzzles for children.
2. Written publications about unexplainable happenings or circumstances: Several enigmatographers presented some difficult issues about human life.
enigmatography (s) (noun), enigmatographies (pl)
The art of writing about things that are difficult to understand or to explicate: Brian was an author who composed enigmatographies to challenge people's thinking skills.
enigmatology (s) (noun), enigmatologies (pl)
1. The study of puzzles and being involved in their creation and construction: Will Shortz is said to be the only man who has the world's only college degree in enigmatology or the art and science of puzzles; including, word puzzles, math puzzles, and logic puzzles.

Will Shortz is the senior editor of Games magazine and puzzlemeister on National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition". At Indiana University, he became the first and only person to major in puzzles and, in 1974, to receive a degree in enigmatology.

2. The system of making riddles or the skills used in solving them: Enigmatology involves the investigation of, or the science of, puzzle creations and their solutions.

Additional information about Will Shortz and Enigmatology

By the age of 15, Shortz was already writing a puzzle book, and selling his work to national magazines. His fascination with puzzles continued into college where, through the independent learning program at the University of Indiana, he created his own college curriculum in enigmalology. "The people at IU were pretty skeptical at first," Shortz said, "but they came around."

Shortz was able to find professors who were willing to work with him on courses of his own devising, in various disciplines, all related to puzzles. He obtained his degree in 1974, after completing courses such as "Creation of Mathematical Puzzles", "Word Puzzles in the 20th Century", and "The Psychology of Puzzles".

His thesis, on "American word puzzles before 1860", was published in a national journal of recreational linguistics.

In addition to his puzzle constructions and solutions, Shortz has also established a collection of puzzle-related books and magazines. He is said to have over 3,000 of them, dating back to the 18th century.

Puzzles "appeal to my mind," Shortz said, in describing why his childhood hobby became the focus of his life. "I love to think and exercise my brain. Puzzles are very satisfying because they take you into almost every other field of endeavor, and you learn something about history, art, music, or any subject you can think of."

—Excerpts compiled from
Book of Buffs, Masters, Mavens and Uncommon Experts
by the editors of The World Almanac, Henry Doering, editor;
World Almanac Publications; Prentice-Hall, Inc.; Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey;
1980; pages 323 and 324.