A word of unknown origin with several variants, gaining popularity for its burlesque imitation of scholastic Latin, as hocus-pocus or panjandrum. If there is more to its origin than a nonce coinage, Anatoly Liberman suggests the best theory is that connecting it with the Conimbricenses, 16th c. scholastic commentaries on Aristotle by the Jesuits of Coimbra which indulge heavily in arguments relying on multiple significations of words.[1]



conundrum (plural conundrums or conundra)

  1. A difficult question or riddle, especially one using a play on words in the answer.
    Synonyms: brain-teaser, enigma, puzzle, riddle
    • 1816, Jane Austen, Emma, Vol. 1, Ch. 2
      “Why should I understand that, or anything else?” asked the girl. “Don’t bother my head by asking conundrums, I beg of you. Just let me discover myself in my own way.”
  2. A difficult choice or decision that must be made.
    Synonyms: dilemma; see also Thesaurus:dilemma



Further readingEdit


  1. ^ Anatoly Liberman (2008-12-03), “Conundrum: A Cold Spoor Warmed Up”, in OUPblog[1]