What are the differences between a "puzzle" and an "enigma"?

All dictionaries say about the "mysterious" effect in the word "enigma".

Native speakers, do you really make use of the "enigma" only when you want to say about something mysterious for you?

And, thus, can I say something like that:

  • "This idea is an enigma for me"

(In a sense that I cannot understand the sense of it.)


  • "It's an enigma for me why some adults watch cartoons"

3 Answers 3


Your question will probably be answered with opinions. Aside from the definition, all that's left to aid in differentiating the two words are opinions on contextual usage.

  • To me a puzzle can be, and probably will be, solved. .

  • An enigma, on the other hand, is a puzzle that will remain unsolved.

An unsolvable puzzle is a mystery - an enigma. People solve puzzles. To my knowledge no one has ever solved an enigma.

In my speaking experience, enigmas are not personalized, meaning enigmas occur at a broader, higher level and affect more than one person. If I were going to personalize it, I would say, "It's an enigma to me." But I wouldn't personalize it. I would simply say, "It's an enigma." If I felt that it was an enigma to me, it would feel more natural to say, "It's a puzzle to me."


An enigma is a mysterious situation, or a question that is difficult to answer.

The main meaning of puzzle is a game or toy that you have to use some ingenuity to solve, but it can also be used of a puzzling situation in real life (therefore, as a synonym of enigma).

I think 'It's an enigma to me' is more idiomatic than 'for me'.


To make you understand easily, I say as follows.

  1. a mysterious and difficult problem or question(enigma) vs a puzzle game(puzzle)
  2. enigma is a noun vs puzzle is a noun and also a verb

Yeah, you can say as below.

"This idea is an enigma for me" or "It's an enigma for me why some adults watch cartoons"

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