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puzzling question, specifically one that consists of a fanciful description or definition of something to be guessed. A famous riddle was asked by the Sphinx: "What goes on four legs in the morning, on two at noon, on three at night?" OedipusOedipus
, in Greek legend, son of Laius, king of Thebes, and his wife, Jocasta. Laius had been warned by an oracle that he was fated to be killed by his own son; he therefore abandoned Oedipus on a mountainside.
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 guessed the answer correctly: "Man—in infancy he crawls, at his prime he walks, in age he leans on a staff." Samson's riddle is also famous: "Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness" (Judges 14.14). It refers to a lion he had just killed, on which he saw bees and honey; he ate some of the lion and the honey. Punning riddles are common, as: "When is a door not a door?" The answer is, "When it's ajar." There is comparatively little riddle literature, but riddles do figure prominently in Old English. The Exeter Book contains many English verse riddles of uncertain date; they vary considerably in matter. There are also many riddles in Latin hexameters dating from Anglo-Saxon England.


See A. Taylor, English Riddles from Oral Tradition (1951); H. H. Abbott, ed., The Riddles of the Exeter Book (1968).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a genre of folk poetry common to all nations; the poetic, often metaphorical description of an object or occurrence.

In antiquity the riddle had religious significance and pertained to popular superstitions and rites that prohibited calling objects by their names. With time the riddle acquired predominantly aesthetic and cognitive importance. It began serving as a test of wit. Riddles are distinguished by the variety of themes and wealth of artistic devices; inherent in them are compositional precision, rhyme, rhythm, and sound effects. Riddles often contain a humorous element that has social significance—for example, “The priest is short, the vestments many” (a cabbage: Stoit pop nizok, na nem sto rizok). Riddles have been widely incorporated into other genres of folklore, as well as into literature.


Anikin, V. P. Russkie narodnye poslovitsy, zagadki i detskiifol’klor. Moscow, 1957.
Mitrofanova, V. “Sovremennoe sostoianie russkikh narodnykh zagadok.” In the collection Sovremennyi russkiifol’klor. Moscow, 1966.
Mitrofanova, V. Zagadki. Moscow, 1968.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(design engineering)
A sieve used for sizing or for removing foreign material from foundry sand or other granular materials.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


A sieve, esp. a coarse one for sand.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


a sieve, esp a coarse one used for sand, grain, etc.
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
The research presented in this book demonstrates the Song to be part of the rare literary genre of riddles and points to the two lovers in the Song as hinting to the Temple keruvim.
Dale draws on principles of eco-criticism and eco-theology to consider cultural and biblical influences on depictions of nature in the vernacular Exeter Book riddles.
PUPILS at Stonehusrt Lodge School in Mountsorrel have been keeping busy raising money for charity and creating their own outdoor riddle trail.
Suffice to say answering riddles is one of the best ways to prepare young minds for becoming more creative and being receptive to new stories.
'Ramadan Riddles' gives children the opportunity to win daily prizes by simply choosing the correct multiple choice answer and solving a puzzle on Cartoon Network Arabic's website.
Many books lay out the complexities and unsolved riddles of quantum theory, she says, but she offers some specific solutions to those riddles.
Roberts's The Riddles of The Hobbit displays a great deal of erudition in the knotty tradition of Anglo-Saxon riddle lore, and effectively brings to bear Old Norse and Old Icelandic riddling texts as well, showing, as he explains in his Introduction, that Tolkien borrowed quite creatively from these traditions, turning The Hobbit into a text with riddles at its thematic core.
Some of his conclusions--his "solutions" to the Riddles of The Hobbit--are more tenuous than others, but the perspective which Roberts adopts suggests that this quality is a merit, that the ingenuity of his reading is its own reward.
Of the many changes, my concern in this paper is changes deemed to affect the African oral literature, specifically, the riddles. Nandwa & Bukenya (1983:27) note that many oral performances pertaining to work, leisure, educational cycles and rhythm of the societies were destroyed due to the colonial experience.
'You open the door first' and 'you open your eyes first' have both been accepted as answers by those posing the riddles on Facebook.
A precedent for this interest in writing implements and materials can be found in the Latin enigmata of Symphosius, Aldhlem, and others, which plainly inspire many of the Exeter Book riddles. (3) Not only do the Latin enigmas share with the Old English riddles an interest in scribal implements and activities, but they similarly make use of prosopopoeia--the rhetorical device through which objects and nonhuman creatures are given speech.
Much to children's amusement, it is artist Daniel Palma Tayona's "Bugtong, Bugtong 2: More Filipino Riddles," the second volume of the Filipino riddles book "Bugtong, Bugtong" by the late children's book author Rene O.