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enigma

noun

Definition: something that defies explanation

Synonyms: mystery, secret, puzzle, paradox, perplexity

Antonyms: answer, truth, clarity

Tips: In the history of cryptography, the Enigma was a portable cipher machine used to encrypt and decrypt secret messages. Today, an enigma is something that's difficult, if not impossible, to explain--something obscure and mysterious. Enigma is a good word to use for things that are rare and puzzling. Enigma is similar in meaning to paradox and anomaly. Enigma is best used to describe a mystery--either a person or something that is not easily explained or understood. A paradox is more of a puzzle or a contradiction; for example, "the famous paradox of what came first, the chicken or the egg." Finally, an anomaly is an irregularity that seems to differ from the norm. You will often hear anomaly used in a statistical context: if statistically something is supposed to happen, but it doesn't, it's usually characterized as an anomaly. The related adjective is enigmatic, which means "hard to understand or interpret."

Usage Examples:

Her enigmatic smile made me wonder what was on her mind. (mysterious) adjective

How such an inept person became CEO for a major corporation, is truly an enigma. (mystery, perplexity)

Everyone joked that it was an enigma that the perpetually late employee made it to work on time. (mystery, paradox)

He's very difficult to figure out; an enigma, really. (puzzle, mystery)


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