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Conundrum vs. Enigma: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 2, 2023
A conundrum is a confusing problem with a difficult solution, while an enigma is something mysterious and hard to understand.

Key Differences

A conundrum is typically a complex problem that is difficult to solve, often presenting a dilemma or a puzzle. It implies a choice that must be made, usually between options that are equally unfavorable. An enigma, on the other hand, refers to a person, thing, or situation that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand, without necessarily implying a problem that needs a solution.
Conundrums often involve a level of paradox or confusion in decision-making, whereas enigmas are more about the obscurity of meaning or character that challenges understanding. A conundrum is something one actively tries to solve, while an enigma might remain a source of perpetual wonder or curiosity without active resolution.
In a conundrum, the emphasis is on the challenge to find an answer or make a decision, usually underpinned by logical or factual constraints. An enigma, by contrast, is shrouded in secrecy or is inherently ambiguous, often defying a logical approach and sometimes never fully revealed or understood.
One might encounter a conundrum when faced with a difficult choice where all options carry significant downsides. Enigmas, however, are often encountered in the realm of the unexplained or ineffable, such as the true motives of a historically enigmatic figure.
A conundrum’s complexity often comes from its intricate details and the requirement to untangle them, whereas an enigma’s complexity is typically due to a lack of information or an inherent unknowability, which keeps it mysterious.

Comparison Chart


A puzzling problem or difficult decision.
Something or someone that is mysterious.


Often logical or intellectual puzzle.
Intrinsically mysterious or puzzling.


Seeks a solution or choice.
May remain unsolved or unknown.


Often used for dilemmas.
Often used for mysterious phenomena.


Problematic and challenging.
Mysterious and potentially inscrutable.

Conundrum and Enigma Definitions


A difficult problem.
The escape room was filled with conundrums.


A mysterious person.
The spy was an enigma to everyone.


A paradoxical dilemma.
The conundrum of free will versus fate is age-old.


A perplexing event.
The disappearance of the artifact remains an enigma.


A word puzzle with a pun.
The crossword included a conundrum that made me laugh.


A cryptic phenomenon.
The cause of the lights in the sky was an enigma.


A tricky question.
He posed a conundrum that left us all stumped.


A riddle with a hidden meaning.
The ancient text was an enigma to modern readers.


A puzzling situation.
Choosing a college major was quite the conundrum.


Something hard to explain.
Quantum physics is an enigma to most people.


A riddle in which a fanciful question is answered by a pun.


One that is puzzling, ambiguous, or inexplicable.


A paradoxical, insoluble, or difficult problem; a dilemma
"the conundrum ... of achieving full employment without inflation" (Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.).


A perplexing speech or text; a riddle.


Can a math problem be a conundrum?

Yes, if it’s particularly complex or puzzling.

Is a conundrum always negative?

Not necessarily, but it implies a challenging problem.

Is an enigma always a person?

No, it can refer to anything that’s deeply mysterious.

Could a movie plot be an enigma?

Yes, if it’s intricate and leaves the audience puzzled.

Do conundrums require critical thinking?

Yes, they usually require thoughtful problem-solving.

Can something be both a conundrum and an enigma?

Yes, if it’s both puzzling and mysterious.

Does a conundrum always have a solution?

Not always, some conundrums may seem unsolvable.

Can enigmas be intentional?

Yes, people or stories can be deliberately enigmatic.

Can a book be a conundrum?

If the plot presents complex problems, it could be.

Is a conundrum the same as a paradox?

Not exactly, but it can contain paradoxical elements.

Can a puzzle be too easy to be a conundrum?

Generally, conundrums are not simple puzzles.

Is the term enigma ever used in science?

Yes, for phenomena that are not yet understood.

Are conundrums used in literature?

Yes, especially in mystery and detective genres.

Can an enigma be exciting?

Yes, many find enigmatic things intriguing.

Are historical mysteries considered enigmas?

Yes, especially if they lack sufficient explanation.

Can enigmatic people be famous?

Yes, especially if their persona is mysterious.

Is it common for enigmas to be unsolved?

Yes, enigmas can remain unsolved or unexplained.

Are conundrums meant to be engaging?

Often, yes, they are designed to provoke thought.

Do enigmas have to be complicated?

Not always, but they are difficult to understand.

Is there always intent behind an enigma?

Not necessarily; some enigmas exist naturally.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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