The word puzzle has a missing piece in the grand etymological scheme of things. Linguists know for sure that it came from the earlier (now antiquated) term pusle, meaning "bewilder", but beyond that they're bewildered. The dominant but unconfirmed theory right now is that it's from the older word pose (not that one; it's a homonym), which meant "perplex", in conjunction with the suffix -le. Pose is an etymology we know; this comes from Middle French poser, or "assume", from its Old French cognate and etymon, poser, which meant "to place" (presumably the new definition developed metaphorically). This comes from Latin pausare ("to rest"), which derives from the earlier word pausa ("halt"; also the forebear of pause through the French word pausee). This is from Greek pausis, from pauein, "to stop", from the Proto-Indo-European word pehw, which meant "few" for some reason beyond my etymological knowledge. Whatever. Perhaps in the future when you peruse a puzzle, this'll give you pause.
Adam Aleksic is a 220-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard College in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd