Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To baffle or confuse mentally by presenting or being a difficult problem or matter.
  • transitive v. To clarify or solve (something confusing) by reasoning or study: He puzzled out the significance of the statement.
  • intransitive v. To be perplexed.
  • intransitive v. To ponder over a problem in an effort to solve or understand it.
  • n. Something, such as a game, toy, or problem, that requires ingenuity and often persistence in solving or assembling.
  • n. Something that baffles or confuses.
  • n. The condition of being perplexed; bewilderment.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Anything that is difficult to understand or make sense of.
  • n. A game for one person that is more or less difficult to work out or complete.
  • n. A crossword puzzle.
  • n. A jigsaw puzzle.
  • n. A riddle.
  • v. To perplex (someone).

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Something which perplexes or embarrasses; especially, a toy or a problem contrived for testing ingenuity; also, something exhibiting marvelous skill in making.
  • n. The state of being puzzled; perplexity.
  • intransitive v. To be bewildered, or perplexed.
  • intransitive v. To work, as at a puzzle.
  • transitive v. To perplex; to confuse; to embarrass; to put to a stand; to nonplus.
  • transitive v. To make intricate; to entangle.
  • transitive v. To solve by ingenuity, as a puzzle; -- followed by out.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To perplex or pose with or as with difficult points, problems, or questions; put to a stand; gravel.
  • To entangle; make intricate.
  • To resolve or discover by long cogitation or careful investigation; make out by mental labor; cogitate: with out.
  • Synonyms Perplex, etc. (see embarrass), pose, nonplus, bewilder, stagger.
  • To be bewildered; be perplexed or posed.
  • n. A difficult question or problem; specifically, a riddle, or a toy or contrivance which is designed to try one's ingenuity.
  • n. Embarrassment; perplexity: as, to be in a puzzle, or in a state of puzzle.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. be a mystery or bewildering to
  • n. a game that tests your ingenuity
  • n. a particularly baffling problem that is said to have a correct solution
  • v. be uncertain about; think about without fully understanding or being able to decide

Etymologies

Origin unknown.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Origin uncertain, originally pusle, possibly pose (“to perplex”) +‎ -le (“(frequentive, diminutive)”). The verb (1590s) “to perplex” seems to predate the noun “state of being perplexed” (circa 1600), “perplexing question” (1650s), “toy” (1814). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • But it ` s just -- it ` s a normal investigative process, you know, and it ` s odd that the term puzzle was used, because essentially that ` s what an investigation is.

    CNN Transcript Jul 29, 2008

  • Many assignments in the professional world are a word puzzle in need of a visual solution and it's up to the photographer to make lemonade from lemons.

    Wired Top Stories

  • A big piece of the puzzle is the Web Application Accelerator, which Akamai has enhanced specifically for SaaS customers.

    OpSource, Akamai Unite to Score a Slice of $56B Cloud Market Pie

  • I fancy foxes and liked the picture on its own; the puzzle is a bonus.

    Archive 2008-01-01

  • In one experiment, Mogilner stood outside a coffee shop and asked people as they were about to enter the store to complete a word puzzle.

    Time Vs. Money: Which Rules Buying Decisions?

  • The stumbling-out-the-gate budget fumble by Chris Gregoire's staff highlights a bigger problem for the state budget that will pose a significant stumbling block for lawmakers: a large piece of the puzzle is the under funded state pension system which requires sizeable "catch-up" contributions from the state in coming years.

    Sound Politics: The Real State Budget Problem

  • And now the final piece of the puzzle is apparently ready to be slipped into place – according to reports, Tom Cruise is ready to release a picture of Suri Cruise to the public.

    Suri Cruise Goes To Will Smith’s Party

  • La Russa says an important piece to the puzzle is the fact the A's had somebody good enough to get the outs in the seventh and eighth innings.

    USATODAY.com - A's Eckersley defined today's role of closer

  • (Sorry, Miami Herald - you have too many ads and the crossword puzzle is the same as the Times except a week later.)

    January 2004

  • The second piece in the puzzle is the weak force, which controls some radioactive decays and energy production in the sun.

    The Nobel Prize in Physics 2004

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