‘How Many Letters Are in the Answer?’ Riddle’s Answer Explained

India Foxtrot

Getty A new riddle is on social media

One of many riddles making the rounds on social media asks how many letters are in the answer. The solution is actually not as intuitive as you might expect a riddle’s answer to be. Read on to learn more and to see the answer to the riddle below. 


‘How Many Letters Are in the Answer to This Riddle?’ Can Be Confusing

This is definitely one of the least-intuitive riddles making the rounds recently, even though the riddle itself has been around for years. But with so many people sheltering at home during the coronavirus pandemic, we have a lot more time to read riddles and ponder their answers.

The question for this riddle is typically worded “How many letters are in the answer to this riddle?,” “How many letters does the answer to this puzzle contain?”, or “How many letters are there in the answer to this question?”

Exactly how the question is worded actually doesn’t affect the ultimate answer that the questioner is looking for.

The answer is four. An alternative answer is 0. 

Why is “four” the answer to this riddle? Well, it’s because the questioner is actually asking for a response where the answer itself describes the number of letters in the answer. Like I said, it’s not the most intuitive answer and it would be perfectly understandable if you got it wrong.

The answer “four” also has four letters in the word itself. So the answer has the correct number of letters in the answer itself.

An alternative, if you wanted to be trickier, could be 0, since 0 (the number, not the letter O) has zero letters in it.

If you answered by counting the number of letters total in the question or by counting the number of unique letters in the question, it’s understandable. Some even take it one step further and count the number of letters in the question and then count the number of letters in that answer.

But the actual expected answer is “four.”

There’s a discussion about the riddle on Wordsmith from 2009 here. One person wrote about the question: “Very poorly worded; four is the only number, expressed as an English word, with the same number of letters as its value.” Another person explained the answer by writing: “You have to figure out an answer that tells you how many letters are in the answer… The only number in which the word (the answer) tells you how many letters it has is four.”

Some people claimed that there really was no way to figure out the right answer from the question itself. But one person in the discussion explained that this is classically how riddles work. “The classic riddle would often be obscurely, if not misleadingly, worded,” one person wrote in the Wordsmith discussion.

As a bonus: the correct answer in Spanish is 5 or Cinco (because Cinco has five letters in it.)


Here’s a Similar But Different Alphabet Riddle & the Answer

You may have also found this story looking for a similar but different riddle involving the alphabet. That question asks “How many letters are in ‘the alphabet’?”

The answer to that question is 11. This is because you’re not counting the letters in the alphabet itself, but the letters in the phrase in quotations, which is “the alphabet.”

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