Definition of conundrum in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /kəˈnʌndrəm/

noun (plural conundrums)

1A confusing and difficult problem or question: one of the most difficult conundrums for the experts
More example sentences
  • Children with recurrent abdominal pain present a difficult conundrum for doctors.
  • For the environmentalists, there was no getting around this difficult conundrum.
  • Other than that, it can be something of a difficult ethical conundrum for somebody.
problem, difficult question, vexed question, difficulty, quandary, dilemma;
puzzle, enigma, mystery
informal poser, facer, stumper, cruncher
1.1A question asked for amusement, typically one with a pun in its answer; a riddle.
Example sentences
  • Fortunately the answer to the conundrum came into reach as we shuffled along.
  • Later on he successfully puzzled over the riddles of some bawdy conundrums.
  • I can't seem to see a clear answer for this conundrum and therefore it sidetracks me and taunts me.
riddle, puzzle, word game, anagram
informal brain-teaser, brain-twister


Late 16th century: of unknown origin, but first recorded in a work by Thomas Nashe, as a term of abuse for a crank or pedant, later coming to denote a whim or fancy, also a pun. Current senses date from the late 17th century.

  • The origin of conundrum is itself a conundrum. In 1596 the English political writer Thomas Nashe used it as a term of abuse for a crank or pedant: ‘So will I…drive him to confess himself a Conundrum, who now thinks he hath learning enough to prove the salvation of Lucifer.’ The word later came to refer both to a whim and a pun. The current sense of ‘a riddle or puzzle’ dates from the late 17th century.

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.