mystery

mystery
mystery, problem, enigma, riddle, puzzle, conundrum are comparable when they denote something which baffles or perplexes and challenges one's power to solve it.
Mystery may, especially in theological use, imply the thing's incapacity for comprehension by the human reason, but it is also applicable to any of the facts of the world about us which defy all attempts to explain their cause or nature
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this mystery of growth and life— Jefferies

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we must be humble, for we are compassed by mysteries, and our spiritual faculties are poor and dull— Inge

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The term is also used to denote something which is guarded by secrecy or is in itself or by design mystifying while at the same time so intriguing as to compel speculation
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he always makes a mystery of his intentions

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it's a mystery to me how he can keep going

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Freud was a genius, an incredible mighty discoverer of secrets, mysteries, and new questions. But the answers he gave were doctrinaire, deathlike— Mailer

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lovers of mystery who like to think of some Wild Man of the Snows treading the heights, eating yaks and men, need not despair. Other monsters have successfully withstood the attempts of scientists to label them— Country Life

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Problem applies not only to a perplexing question that demands a solution
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a geo-metrical problem

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but also to a person or situation that causes perplexity or puts one in a predicament
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that child is a problem to his parents and teachers

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the problem . . . how to find healthy, happy leisure for all the working millions who are now being liberated by machines— L. P. Smith

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if a great hate and a great determination could solve the problem, Kelley would solve it— Theodore Sturgeon

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Enigma applies to whatever hides its meaning under obscure or ambiguous allusions so that one can only guess at its significance
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a metaphor should not be farfetched, for then it becomes an enigma

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the ancient oracles usually spoke in enigmas

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The term can be extended to whatever is inscrutable or beyond the range of unaided understanding
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Leonardo ... worked so slowly, he left so much unfinished, he seemed to them so volatile and unstable. He was an enigma to which they never secured the key— Ellis

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the enigmas of history, of man's freedom and responsibility and of his guilt, cannot be solved as easily as modern culture assumed— Niebuhr

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Riddle applies to an enigma involving paradoxical or contradictory statements and definitely proposed to be guessed
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made up riddles for the amusement of her guests

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"What did one wall say to the other wall?" he asked shrilly. "It's a riddleV'—Salinger

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The term can be extended to any problem which is difficult because of its inner contradictions
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he tried to read the riddle of this girl's future— Galsworthy

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the riddle of Actium is not in the details of the fighting but in the minds of the combatants— Buchan

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Puzzle applies to a problem or enigma which tests one's ingenuity or skill in solution or which is peculiarly baffling
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hoary old puzzles of Ethics and Philosophy— L. P. Smith

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there are few things in the world so difficult to explain as real change; it appears to me that most scientists are far from realizing the complexity of this metaphysical puzzleInge

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Conundrum specifically applies to a riddle phrased as a question the answer to which involves a paradox or a pun or an equivocal use of words
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they roused him with jam and judicious advice: they set him conundrums to guess— Lewis Carroil

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The term can be extended to unsolved or unsolvable problems which provoke speculation rather than serious attempts at solution
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do you think life is long enough to let me speculate on conundrums like that?— Black

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fail to touch on the political conundrums involved, particularly the problem of how the richer areas of the South can be made to subsidize the poorer— Cater

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New Dictionary of Synonyms. 2014.

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  • Mystery — Mys ter*y, n.; pl. {Mysteries}. [OE. mistere, OF. mestier, F. m[ e]tier, L. ministerium. See {Ministry}.] 1. A trade; a handicraft; hence, any business with which one is usually occupied. [1913 Webster] Fie upon him, he will discredit our mystery …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Mystery 6 — Format Mockumentary Drama Country of origin South Korea No. of episodes …   Wikipedia

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