Riddles origin, characteristics, parts, functions, types

Anthony Golden
Riddles origin, characteristics, parts, functions, types

The riddles they are riddles or enigmas that describe a thing or object with the intention that a receiver deduce what it is. Commonly the statements are produced with rhymes, this in order to give sound and dynamism to the question that is asked. Every riddle contains a hidden answer in its approach.

Now, riddles are themselves a teaching method that allows children to become familiar with some concepts and meanings. In the same way, these types of puzzles are tools of entertainment and distraction, that due to the way they are composed. On the other hand, they serve to cultivate the imagination.

Riddles are riddles or riddles that describe a thing or object with the intention that a receiver deduce what it is. Source: pixabay.com.

Riddles have various characteristics, among the most outstanding are the metrics that make up the verses and the ease with which they become part of popular culture. The enigmas that are posed through the statements can be directed to a variety of elements that are part of everyday reality.

In relation to the types of riddles they can be conceived as a kind of play on words or in symbolic form including some metaphors. An example of a riddle is: "Little as a mouse and take care of the house like a lion" (the padlock). In short, riddles work playfully and didactically to distract and teach.

Article index

  • 1 Origin
    • 1.1 Etymological origin
  • 2 Characteristics of riddles
    • 2.1 They present guiding elements
    • 2.2 Include disorienting elements
    • 2.3 They serve to entertain
    • 2.4 Popularity
    • 2.5 They serve to educate
    • 2.6 Anonymity
    • 2.7 Contents
    • 2.8 Conclusion formulas are established
    • 2.9 They are didactic in nature
  • 3 Parts (structure)
    • 3.1 Approach or introduction formula
    • 3.2 Clues or guiding elements
    • 3.3 Disorienting elements
    • 3.4 Completion methods
  • 4 Functions
    • 4.1 Playful function
    • 4.2 Poetic aesthetic function
    • 4.3 Didactic function
  • 5 Types of riddles
    • 5.1 - Conundra (conundrum in English)
    • 5.2 - Enigma
  • 6 Examples of riddles
    • 6.1 - The door
    • 6.2 - Work
    • 6.3 - The banana
    • 6.4 - The mustache
    • 6.5 - The onion
    • 6.6 - The alarm clock
    • 6.7 - The blue
    • 6.8 - The fish
    • 6.9 - The table
    • 6.10 - The frog
    • 6.11 - The Spider
  • 7 References


The origin of the riddles is not precise. Some investigations maintain that the first ones were given in the Sanskrit language, in biblical passages and in stories of oral tradition that became legends. Its birth and development are linked to the curiosity of the human being to know and know more.

On the other hand, some studies have shown that the riddles originated in China, specifically in the city of Hang-Cheu in the times of the Sunga dynasty. A group of men dressed in the same way appeared in the streets and offered money to the public in exchange for answering the riddles they posed.

Etymological origin

As for the etymological origin, the word riddle comes from the Latin language. It is made up of the prefix ad ("Towards") and the root divinus (proper of the gods). For its part, the suffix anza indicates the action. It is translated as a riddle or as a statement that is formulated to be interpreted and give an answer.

Characteristics of riddles

Riddles have the following characteristics:

They present guiding elements

By adding hidden or fragmented keywords in the text, creating clues that, when put together, awaken the imagination of the receiver until they build a meaning and find the solution.

Example: "I tell you, I tell you" (the cloth); "I am in the middle of the sky and I never go in water" (the letter "e").

Include disorienting elements

Using verses with misleading clues, with double meanings or figures of speech, making comparisons, personifications and animalizations. With the purpose of disorienting the receiver and making it difficult for him to find the solution.

By presenting the options in a confusing way, there can be several answers, the most innocent option being the correct one, which the issuer takes advantage of to outwit the guesser..

Example: “I whistle and I don't have a mouth…” (The wind); "I run and I have no legs ..." (Time); "I'm long and stubborn ..." (The tree).

They serve to entertain

One of the main characteristics of riddles is the recreational function they have. The creativity and ingenuity with which they are made allow us to enter states of time full of games and distraction..


Riddles are popular and recognized in all cultures and societies, this is due to their age and because they are almost always transmitted orally, so they are inherited from generation to generation. Its oral tradition makes it possible for the statement to vary according to each region.

They serve to educate

Although riddles are used to entertain, it is also true that they are used in teaching systems to educate children in relation to concepts and meanings that are part of everyday life. On the other hand, the application of riddles contributes to group integration and the preservation of popular culture.


In general, riddles do not have a specific author, but are considered anonymous because of the way in which they have been made known (oral tradition) and at the same time because of the popular character that they have reached over the years. Hence, there may be different versions of the same riddle.


The content of the riddles is related to objects or things that are part of the daily life of a society and culture. Thus, the answers can be associated with fruits, elements of nature, utensils, abstract figures such as life and death, animals, feelings, among others..

Conclusion formulas are established

When closing the puzzle, the receiver is invited to find the solution and continue with the game, using motivating words that indicate:

  • Ease: "Before your sight the answer is"; "More clearly a rooster does not crow".
  • Difficulty: “you won't guess…”; "You must think big to achieve ...".
  • Courage to try: "Sure I am, you will guess today"; "If you want to guess, wait a little longer".
  • Mockery: "He who does not guess is very stupid." "If you can't guess, donkey ears will jump at you".
  • Challenge: "If you are smart, you can guess"; "If you have ingenuity, you will be able to decipher".
  • Reward: "If you can guess, you will be the great lord"; "The best guesser, receives the award".

They are didactic in nature

This is evidenced in the use of crossword games for intellectual development, aimed at children, youth and adults..

Word structures are presented that when organizing them in a coherent way, the solution can be found, thus promoting in the receiver the capacity for logical reasoning, the communicative capacity.

It is intended that the riddle manages to make the participant decipher a linguistic code that communicates a message in a confusing way.

In this way - playing - they learn to associate, memorize, compare and formulate their conclusions, in order to finally discover the correct answer..

Parts (structure)

Every riddle has the following parts or components:

Introduction or formula of introduction

This part of the riddle is based on the formulation of a question that may contain specific characteristics or qualities of an object. The intention is to provide clues to the receiver regarding the answer.

Guiding clues or elements

These elements are introduced into the riddle with the aim of guiding or directing the receiver towards the correct answer. Due to the brevity of this type of text, words are used that describe the elements that are part of this form of entertainment..

Disorienting elements

These elements are opposite to the previous ones because they try to distract the receiving public so that it takes longer to give answers and thus the riddle is more entertaining. Statements can be made up of words devoid of meaning in relation to the object in question.

Conclusion methods

This phase has to do with the complexity and difficulty of answering the riddle. At the same time, the sender can motivate the receiver with the solution through a symbolic award or by making him carry out a penance in case of not hitting the mark. In this part the dynamic and entertaining character of the riddles is strengthened..


Riddles have the following functions:

Playful function

Riddles can be considered oral puzzles. Source: pixabay.com.

One of the main functions of riddles is to invite play and fun. This objective is achieved through word games, the structuring of the verses and the attention paid to the statement that is raised. Riddles awaken imagination, thought and curiosity to know.

To play the riddles, you only need a sender who puts into practice the inquiring capacity of a receiver and who in turn is willing to imagine and think enough to find the correct answer.

Poetic aesthetic function

The poetic component of the riddles and the way in which they are structured give access to a world of sensations and at the same time they weave a simple link with the genre of poetry. For their part, stanzas, verses and rhymes connect with musicality and sharpen the senses with the use of literary figures..

Didactic function

The elements and characteristics that make up riddles enable their teaching function and their effect on learning. All this is due to its linguistic, semantic, syntactic, poetic, and rhythmic composition. In addition, these texts open the way to memorizing concepts and meanings in a simple way..

Types of riddles

The riddles can be:

- Conundra (conundrum in English)

This type of riddles is characterized in that the speaker poses them as a play on words, and their answers can also be given in the same way..

Sometimes the answer is hidden in the statement or can be raised by the receiver when manipulating a sentence.


"It is in the middle of the sea and does not get wet." (The letter "a" in the word "sea").

- Enigma

This class of riddles is formulated by means of sentences composed of metaphors, symbols or allegories that make understanding difficult and therefore require more reasoning and time to find the answer..


"I am white as snow

and sweet as honey;

I make the cakes happy

and milk with coffee ".

(The sugar).

Examples of riddles

Below are examples of popular riddles, meaning that they are part of a society or culture:

- The door

If it opens it is entrance,

and it is also exit,

without her there would be no home

for someone to live it.

- The job

Give the man the food,

also shelter and roof,

and also gives you the right

to have your good life.

- The banana

Always arrives in great hands,

green is first, then yellow,

arrives with his brothers

from the different villas.

- Mustache

Always decorating go,

below smell,

above taste

and joining the cheeks

and to the touch it tickles.

- The onion

It doesn't matter the day or the hour,

if you are strong or brave,

when cutting it, in an oversight,

hopelessly you always cry.

- The alarm

It is you who asks for it,

who tells you and programs you,

but you hate me yelling at you

and I got you out of bed.

- The blue

The sky uses you to say day,

the sea, however,

you saw him to say his name.

- The fish

Against the current and in favor

he lives day by day

flapping with joy,

without sadness or fear.

- Table

In it you eat breakfast,

lunch and dinner,

tea is also drunk, without regret,

or coffee, if you want one.

- The Frog

His jump never wanes

in the mountain or the lagoon,

always green and timely

eating mosquitoes with its tongue.

- The spider

Weaves and weaves his white cloth

on the ceiling and in the corner,

there she is, with her thousand eyes of mystery,

waiting for the fly to fall into its fine trap.


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