I read a sentence

And so my early OOP experiments were riddled with surprising behaviors and odd bugs.

Riddle means to make a lot of holes in something

In Etymology Dictionary says:

"perforate with many holes," 1817 (implied in riddled), earlier "sift" (early 13c.), from Middle English ridelle "coarse sieve," from late Old English hriddel "sieve," altered by dissimilation from Old English hridder "sieve" (see riddle (n.2)).

The problem is that riddle has no shared part with hole and sieve.

I try to imagine double d has two holes but a bit naive.

How to analyze 'riddle' literally.


3 Answers 3


Riddle in this sense means literally "cause to have the appearance of a riddle"—that is, full of holes. We say, for instance, that someone may be riddled with gunshot: he has many holes in his flesh. The extended use is a metaphor: something which has a lot of errors or weaknesses which diminish its effectiveness is thought of as having a lot of "holes".


Your question is not clear.

The idiom "riddled with something" means "full of something (negative)" So his OOP experiments were full of bugs like a sieve is full of holes

Riddled combines with nouns to form adjectives that describe something as being full of a particular undesirable thing or quality.Reverso

If a plan or system, etc. is riddled with bad features, such as mistakes, it is full of them:

This article is riddled with errors.Cambridge

  • 2
    Make sense. perforated into coarse sieve with bugs and surprising behaviors.
    – Wizard
    Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 13:29

"Riddle" has a similar meaning to "sieve", but the two words have different origins.

Both riddle and sieve can be traced back to the language "proto Indo European" that is the ancestor language of most European and North Indian languages. As nobody speaks Proto Indo-European and nobody wrote it down, the language is reconstructed from later languages. Reconstructed words are indicated with an asterisk (*)

Sieve <- Proto-germanic *sib- < Proto Indo-European *seib, which means "pour out", "drip", or "sieve".

The word has changed only slightly over 5000 years, the "b" has become a "v" and the vowel has shifted. On the other hand, riddle has changed quite a lot

Riddle <- Old English "hriddle" <- Proto-Germanic *Hrida- <- Proto IndoEuropean <- *krei-, meaning "sieve".

The same root word *krei-, also gives us the meaning of sort, judgement, and from the meaning "judgement we get the word for things that are judged. The word "crime" has the same origin.

So words that are very different in meanings can have the same origin "crime" and "riddle" have the same origin. Words with similar meanings can have completely different origins. "Sieve" and "Riddle" have similar meanings, but they are not related.

The physical shape of a word on the page has nothing to do with the meaning of a word.


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