Noun. A secret, riddle; a puzzling person; something difficult to understand.
Etymology: From the Latin, aenigma meaning “riddle”, based on Greek ainigma derived from ainissesthai that means “to speak in riddles.” The word first appeared in the 1580s.
The word was catapulted to prominence in 1939, during Churchill’s wartime radio broadcasts, describing Russia: “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” Batman comic book fans know a riddle when they see it: the Riddler’s name is Edward Nigma (E. Nigma). Music fans will recognize the name of the electronic musical project, Engima, founded by Frenchman Michael Cretu. Enigma has produced seven amazingly innovative albums, featuring sampling, Gregorian chants, and dreamy vocalizations. In December of 2010, Cretu released the MMX The Social Song, the first song created through a collaboration with fans via the internet. In the world of history, the Enigma was a cipher machine (using a clever system of 3-5 movable rotors and plugboard) invented by German engineer Arthur Scherius and used by the Nazis to send encrypted messages during World War II. One of the most fascinating stories of WWII is how the brilliant cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park (located in Bletchley, in Buckinghamshire, England) cracked the Engima code, providing valuable intelligence to the Allied powers — sparing many ships and thousands of lives as well as providing strategic battle information. One of the cryptanalysts working at Bletchley was Alan Turing, considered the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, who developed the first computer, the Turing machine, that aided in cracking the code.
For further reading: Word Catcher by Phil Cousineau, Viva Editions (2010).
The Code Book: The Evolution of Secrecy from Mary, Queen of Scots to Quantaum Cryptography by Simon Singh, Doubleday (1999). Enigma: The Battle for the Code by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore, Wiley (2004).
The social song can be heard here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWuBGRKiyU0