What's a question or problem that requires a bit of thought before you answer? It's a riddle, of course. The verb riddle can mean to speak in a puzzling fashion, though that use is not very common.

The word riddle might put you in mind of such brain-teasers as "Why did the chicken cross the road?", but riddles actually have a distinguished history in English literature going back to the 10th century. Today, you often find riddle used to mean a hard problem or question to figure out. Is it a riddle to you why you have to go to school? In an unrelated use, if something is riddled with holes, there are many holes in it, quite possibly from bullets!

Primary Meanings of riddle

pierce with many holes
a coarse sieve (as for gravel)
a difficult problem
set a difficult problem or riddle
Full Definitions of riddle

v pierce with many holes

“The bullets riddled his body”
Type of:
make a hole into

v spread or diffuse through

“His campaign was riddled with accusations and personal attacks”
diffuse, imbue, interpenetrate, penetrate, permeate, pervade
spiritise, spiritize
imbue with a spirit
Type of:
penetrate, perforate
pass into or through, often by overcoming resistance

v separate with a riddle, as grain from chaff

Type of:
sieve, sift, strain
separate by passing through a sieve or other straining device to separate out coarser elements

n a coarse sieve (as for gravel)

Type of:
screen, sieve
a strainer for separating lumps from powdered material or grading particles

n a difficult problem

brain-teaser, conundrum, enigma
Type of:
a question raised for consideration or solution

v set a difficult problem or riddle

riddle me a riddle”
Type of:
amaze, baffle, beat, bewilder, dumbfound, flummox, get, gravel, mystify, nonplus, perplex, pose, puzzle, stick, stupefy, vex
be a mystery or bewildering to

v explain a riddle

Type of:
figure out, lick, puzzle out, solve, work, work out
find the solution to (a problem or question) or understand the meaning of

v speak in riddles

Type of:
communicate, intercommunicate
transmit thoughts or feelings

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.