AskDefine | Define puzzle

Dictionary Definition



1 a particularly baffling problem that is said to have a correct solution; "he loved to solve chessmate puzzles"; "that's a real puzzler" [syn: puzzler, mystifier, teaser]
2 a toy that tests your ingenuity


1 be a mystery or bewildering to; "This beats me!"; "Got me--I don't know the answer!"; "a vexing problem"; "This question really stuck me" [syn: perplex, vex, stick, get, mystify, baffle, beat, pose, bewilder, flummox, stupefy, nonplus, gravel, amaze, dumbfound]
2 be uncertain about; think about without fully understanding or being able to decide; "We puzzled over her sudden departure"

User Contributed Dictionary



Origin uncertain. The verb seems to predate the noun, and may be a diminutive form of pose.


  • pŭzʹəl, /ˈpʌzəl/, /"pVz@l/


  1. Anything that is difficult to understand or make sense of.
    Where he went after he left the house is a puzzle.
  2. A game for one person that is more or less difficult to work out or complete.
  3. A crossword puzzle.
  4. A jigsaw puzzle.
  5. A riddle.


Derived terms

anything difficult to understand or make sense of
game for one person
crossword puzzle
jigsaw puzzle


  1. To perplex (someone).

Derived terms

to perplex

Related terms



From puzzle.



fr-noun m

Extensive Definition

A puzzle is a problem or enigma that challenges ingenuity. In a basic puzzle one is intended to piece together objects in a logical way in order to come up with the desired shape, picture or solution. Puzzles are often contrived as a form of entertainment, but they can also stem from serious mathematical or logistical problems — in such cases, their successful resolution can be a significant contribution to mathematical research.
Solutions to puzzles may require recognizing patterns and creating a particular order. People with a high inductive reasoning aptitude may be better at solving these puzzles than others. Puzzles based on the process of inquiry and discovery to complete may be solved faster by those with good deduction skills.


The first jigsaw puzzle was made arounded 1760, when John Spilsbury, a British engraver and mapmaker, mounted a map on a sheet of wood that he then sawed around each individual country. Spilsbury used the product to aid in teaching geography. After catching on with the wider public, this remained the primary use of jigsaw puzzles until about 1820.
Arthur Wynne, a Liverpool journalist, published what is recognized as the first crossword puzzle in 1913. The puzzle was initially called a "word-cross." The first book of crossword puzzles appeared in 1924, published by Simon and Schuster. The book was an instant hit and crossword puzzles became the craze of 1924. The term crossword first appeared in a dictionary in 1930.
In the early 1900s, magazines and newspapers found that they could increase their daily subscriptions by publishing puzzle contests.

Contemporary puzzles

A sample of notable puzzle authors includes Sam Loyd, Henry Dudeney, Boris Kordemsky and, more recently, David J. Bodycombe, Will Shortz and Martin Gardner.
There are organizations and events catering puzzle enthusiasts such as the International Puzzle Party, the World Puzzle Championship and the National Puzzlers' League. There are also Puzzlehunts like Maze of Games.
The Rubik's Cube and other magic polyhedrons are toys based on puzzles that can be stimulating toys for kids and are a recreational activity for adults. Puzzles can be used to hide or obscure objects. A good example is a puzzle box used to hide jewelry.
Games are often based on a puzzle. For example there are thousands of computer puzzle games and many letter games, word games and mathematical games which require solutions to puzzles as part of the gameplay. One of the most popular puzzle games is Tetris. In video games, jumping puzzles are common.
A chess problem is a puzzle that uses chess pieces on a chess board.

Types of puzzles

The large number of puzzles that have been created can be divided into categories, for example a maze is a type of tour puzzle. Other categories include construction puzzles, stick puzzles, tiling puzzles, transport puzzles, disentanglement puzzles, sliding puzzles, logic puzzles, word puzzles, picture puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, lock puzzles, folding puzzles, combination puzzles and mechanical puzzles.
A meta-puzzle is a puzzle which unites or incorporates elements of other puzzles. It is often found in puzzlehunts.

Well-known puzzles


The 1989 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary dates the word puzzle (as a verb) to the end of the 16th century. That first documented use comes from a book called The Voyage of Robert the West Indies, 1594-95, narrated by Capt. Wyatt, by himself, and by Abram Kendall, master (published circa 1595).
Their research, based on the "chronology of the words, and still more the consideration of their sense-history, seem[s] to make it clear that the verb came first, and that the noun was its derivative."


  • Creative Puzzles of the World, 1980, Plenary Publications International
  • Denkspiele Der Welt, München 1977,1981, Heinrich Hugendubel Verlag

External links

puzzle in Arabic: لغز
puzzle in Catalan: Trencaclosques
puzzle in German: Geduldsspiel
puzzle in Spanish: Rompecabezas
puzzle in Esperanto: Enigmo
puzzle in French: Casse-tête
puzzle in Irish: Dúcheist
puzzle in Ido: Puzlo
puzzle in Indonesian: Tebakan
puzzle in Italian: Rompicapo
puzzle in Hebrew: חידה
puzzle in Macedonian: Загатка
puzzle in Dutch: Puzzel
puzzle in Japanese: パズル
puzzle in Portuguese: Quebra-cabeça
puzzle in Russian: Головоломка
puzzle in Slovenian: Uganka
puzzle in Thai: ปริศนา
puzzle in Chinese: 智力游戏

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Chinese puzzle, Gordian knot, addle, ail, amaze, apply the mind, baffle, bafflement, baffling problem, bamboozle, be the matter, beat, befog, befuddle, beset, bewilder, bewilderment, boggle, bother, brain twister, brain-teaser, buffalo, cap, complicate matters, concern, confound, confoundment, confuse, confusion, consider, contemplate, conundrum, crossword puzzle, crux, dark horse, daze, decipher, dilemma, discommode, discomposure, disconcert, disconcertedness, disconcertion, disconcertment, distract, distress, disturb, disturbance, dumbfound, embarrassment, enigma, enigmatic question, figure out, fix, flabbergast, floor, floorer, flummox, foil, frontier, frontiers of knowledge, frustrate, fuddle, get, hammer at, hammer away at, harass, inconvenience, irk, jam, jigsaw puzzle, keep in suspense, knot, knotty point, lick, matter of ignorance, maze, mind-boggler, muddle, mull over, muse on, muse over, mystery, mystification, mystify, n, node, nodus, nonplus, nut to crack, oxymoron, paradox, perplex, perplexed question, perplexity, perturb, perturbation, pickle, plague, plight, ponder over, pons asinorum, pose, poser, pother, predicament, problem, put out, put to it, puzzle out, puzzle over, puzzlement, puzzler, quandary, question, question mark, reflect over, riddle, scrape, sealed book, sixty-four dollar question, solve, sort out, stew, stew over, stick, sticker, study, stumble, stump, stumper, stymie, teaser, terra incognita, the incalculable, the strange, the unfamiliar, the unknowable, the unknown, think hard, think through, throw, torment, tough proposition, trouble, unassuredness, unexplored ground, unexplored territory, unknown quantity, unlock, unravel, upset, vex, vexed question, why, work out, worry, x, z
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