Definition of conundrum in English:

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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.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: con¦un|drum

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