There are 2 main definitions of riddle in English:

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riddle1

Syllabification: rid·dle
Pronunciation: /ˈridl
 
/

noun

1A question or statement intentionally phrased so as to require ingenuity in ascertaining its answer or meaning, typically presented as a game.
Example sentences
  • Shorter answers every other question with a riddle and punctuates his conversation with statements such as ‘The only constant is change.’
  • During the latest bachelor party, a man in an ape suit served as master of ceremonies as guests were required to answer a series of riddles.
  • Fleur plays Princess Turandot, declaring that she will marry the man who correctly answers her three riddles, while those who fail will be killed.
1.1A person, event, or fact that is difficult to understand or explain: the riddle of her death
More example sentences
  • Not only has it helped to explain life's innermost riddles, but it has posed challenging questions about human behaviour and ethics, and offered controversial new technologies.
  • Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful.
  • A set of hypotheses has been suggested to explain this exceptional riddle of fish reproduction, but as yet they remain untested.
Synonyms
puzzle, conundrum, brainteaser, problem, unsolved problem, question, poser, enigma, mystery, quandary
informal stumper

verb

[no object] archaic Back to top  
1Speak in or pose riddles: he who knows not how to riddle
More example sentences
  • The clown Feste has incurred Olivia's displeasure by a long absence, but contrives to regain her favour by riddling that she is more foolish than he for mourning that her brother is in Heaven.
  • Small touches in each of these short stories illustrate Edgeworth's use of codes and riddling.
1.1 [with two objects] Solve or explain (a riddle) to (someone): riddle me this then

Origin

Old English rǣdels, rǣdelse 'opinion, conjecture, riddle'; related to Dutch raadsel, German Rätsel, also to read.

More
  • read from (Old English):

    Alfred the Great, king of Wessex between 871 and 899, did much to promote education in his kingdom, and the word read is first found in his writings. The word goes back to a Germanic root meaning ‘advise, guess, interpret’, and Old English riddle comes from the same root. The three Rs (early 19th century) have been ‘reading, (w)riting, and (a)rithmetic’, regarded as the fundamentals of elementary education. The expression is said to have originated as a toast proposed by the banker and politician Sir William Curtis ( 1752–1829). Read my lips was most famously used by the first President Bush in 1998. In making a campaign pledge not to raise taxes, he said ‘Read my lips: no new taxes.’ If you want to give someone a severe warning or reprimand, you may read the riot act to them. The Riot Act was passed by the British government in 1715 to prevent civil disorder in the wake of the Jacobite rebellion of that year. The Act made it an offence for a group of twelve or more people to refuse to disperse within an hour of being ordered to do so, after a magistrate had read a particular section of the Act to them. This created something of a problem, as reading legal language aloud is not the easiest thing to do in the middle of a genuine riot—and defendants might claim later that they had not heard the key words. The Act failed to prevent a number of major disturbances over the years, but was not repealed until 1967. Riot (Middle English) originally meant dissolute living and comes from an Old French word meaning ‘to quarrel’.

Phrases

talk (or speak) in riddles

1
Express oneself in an ambiguous or puzzling manner.
Example sentences
  • Sorry if it sounds like I'm talking in riddles here.
  • There were reports of a permanently stoned Perry walking backwards and talking in riddles while striking the ground with a hammer.
  • Pleat preferred to talk in riddles about the future of the club rather than the game, which Spurs won thanks to two fine individual goals.

Derivatives

riddler

1
Pronunciation: /ˈridlər, ˈridl-ər/
noun
Example sentences
  • Mullen forces us to act and react as language's riddlers and addicts: ‘as shadow as promised/as drinking fountain as well/as grassfire as myself/as mirror as is/as never as this.’
  • Logically speaking, the additional information is essential for the answer the riddler wants.

Words that rhyme with riddle

diddle, fiddle, griddle, kiddle, Liddell, middle, piddle, twiddle

Definition of riddle in:

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There are 2 main definitions of riddle in English:

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riddle2

Syllabification: rid·dle
Pronunciation: /ˈridl
 
/

verb

[with object]
1 (usually be riddled) Make many holes in (someone or something), especially with gunshot: his car was riddled by sniper fire
More example sentences
  • The hydrants were not working and the hoses the fire officers were using to extinguish the blaze were riddled with holes.
  • The truck was riddled with shrapnel holes and shards had punctured the fuel drums of two Challenger tanks.
  • If you stop to think about it, the film is riddled with such holes - why for example does nobody actually catch the virulent super-virus from either of the unfortunate characters injected with it?
Synonyms
perforate, pierce, puncture, pepper
1.1Fill or permeate (someone or something), especially with something unpleasant or undesirable: the existing law is riddled with loopholes
More example sentences
  • It was riddled with informers and Lenin spent the majority of his time engaged in internal disputes with other socialists.
  • She talks about how the whole country was riddled with informers.
  • It is simply impossible to have a death penalty - the judiciary are riddled with prejudices and the judicial system is filled with flaws, and innocent people will be executed.
Synonyms
permeate, suffuse, fill, pervade, spread through, imbue, saturate, overrun, beset
2Pass (a substance) through a large coarse sieve: for final potting, the soil mixture is not riddled
More example sentences
  • This was put to use every autumn to power the large and venerable threshing machine, with its elevator and shaking, riddling sieves.
  • Made of some combination of tannins, bentonites, gelatines, or alginates, they help to produce a uniform skin-like yeast deposit that does not stick to the glass but slips easily down it during the riddling process.
  • Brown observed to Poole that the miners could typically make the same or slightly more money and produce more coal per day, saved as they were the labor of riddling.
Synonyms
2.1Remove ashes or other unwanted material from (something, especially a fire or stove) with a sieve.

noun

Back to top  
A large coarse sieve, especially one used for separating ashes from cinders or sand from gravel.
Example sentences
  • For inside the mill, the shelling stones began to turn, the riddles (large-meshed sieves) rhythmically shook and the millstones ground round and round.
  • I then re-sieve it through a maggot riddle to remove the lumps.

Origin

late Old English hriddel, of Germanic origin; from an Indo-European root shared by Latin cribrum 'sieve', cernere 'separate', and Greek krinein 'decide'.

More
  • read from (Old English):

    Alfred the Great, king of Wessex between 871 and 899, did much to promote education in his kingdom, and the word read is first found in his writings. The word goes back to a Germanic root meaning ‘advise, guess, interpret’, and Old English riddle comes from the same root. The three Rs (early 19th century) have been ‘reading, (w)riting, and (a)rithmetic’, regarded as the fundamentals of elementary education. The expression is said to have originated as a toast proposed by the banker and politician Sir William Curtis ( 1752–1829). Read my lips was most famously used by the first President Bush in 1998. In making a campaign pledge not to raise taxes, he said ‘Read my lips: no new taxes.’ If you want to give someone a severe warning or reprimand, you may read the riot act to them. The Riot Act was passed by the British government in 1715 to prevent civil disorder in the wake of the Jacobite rebellion of that year. The Act made it an offence for a group of twelve or more people to refuse to disperse within an hour of being ordered to do so, after a magistrate had read a particular section of the Act to them. This created something of a problem, as reading legal language aloud is not the easiest thing to do in the middle of a genuine riot—and defendants might claim later that they had not heard the key words. The Act failed to prevent a number of major disturbances over the years, but was not repealed until 1967. Riot (Middle English) originally meant dissolute living and comes from an Old French word meaning ‘to quarrel’.

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