paradox

noun
par·​a·​dox | \ ˈper-ə-ˌdäks How to pronounce paradox (audio) , ˈpa-rə- \

Definition of paradox

1 : a tenet contrary to received opinion
2a : a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true
b : a self-contradictory statement that at first seems true
c : an argument that apparently derives self-contradictory conclusions by valid deduction from acceptable premises
3 : one (such as a person, situation, or action) having seemingly contradictory qualities or phases

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Did You Know?

The ancient Greeks were well aware that a paradox can take us outside our usual way of thinking. They combined the prefix para- ("beyond" or "outside of") with the verb dokein ("to think"), forming paradoxos, an adjective meaning "contrary to expectation." Latin speakers picked up the word and used it to create their noun paradoxum, which English speakers borrowed during the 1500s to create paradox.

Examples of paradox in a Sentence

For the actors, the goal was a paradox: real emotion, produced on cue. — Claudia Roth Pierpont, New Yorker, 27 Oct. 2008 Again and again, he returns in his writing to the paradox of a woman who is superior to the men around her by virtue of social class though considered inferior to them on account of her gender. — Terry Eagleton, Harper's, November 2007 She was certainly far from understanding him completely; his meaning was not at all times obvious. It was hard to see what he meant for instance by speaking of his provincial side—which was exactly the side she would have taken him most to lack. Was it a harmless paradox, intended to puzzle her? or was it the last refinement of high culture? — Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady, 1881 Mr. Guppy propounds for Mr. Smallweed's consideration the paradox that the more you drink the thirstier you are and reclines his head upon the window-sill in a state of hopeless languor. — Charles Dickens, Bleak House, 1852-53 It is a paradox that computers need maintenance so often, since they are meant to save people time. As an actor, he's a paradox—he loves being in the public eye but also deeply values and protects his privacy. a novel full of paradox
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Recent Examples on the Web The paradox of a vast increase in parcel deliveries, and a drop in letters, reflects the challenges faced by postal services worldwide. Katherine Dunn, Fortune, "The U.K.’s 500-year-old Royal Mail faces a world of ‘more parcels and fewer letters’ as it announces major cost cuts," 25 June 2020 Klett identifies our messy paradox, the human desire to lose ourselves in the wild and also to extract, despoil, and package it. Cheri Lucas Rowlands, Longreads, "“I Saw It on Instagram, I Had to Come”: The Desire to Document Ourselves in Nature," 7 July 2020 The voice, so light and elusive, performs one paradox after another, until paralysis becomes the natural and desired solution. Anne Enright, The New York Review of Books, "Wanting Wrong," 6 July 2020 An evolutionary paradox that compels us to be social may be to blame. Rebecca Renner, National Geographic, "Why some people can't resist crowds despite the pandemic," 24 June 2020 The paradox rests on the presumption that the arrival of freedom should be greeted with gratitude, instead of with self-reflection about what allowed it to be deprived in the first place. Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker, "Juneteenth and the Meaning of Freedom," 19 June 2020 Despite the numerous ways to honor Juneteenth, one thing about the holiday endures throughout generations: the paradox of black people’s lived experiences. Kellie Carter Jackson, The Atlantic, "Juneteenth Has Always Been Worthy of Celebration," 19 June 2020 The paradox is almost metaphorical; despite the visual beauty of wood treated this way (popular in home design and furniture around the world) shou sugi ban is really about destroying something in order to build strength and resistance. Erin Florio, Condé Nast Traveler, "Shou Sugi Ban House Review: First In," 11 June 2019 Some philosophers and physicists argue that the new findings have striking implications for the black hole information paradox, a profound 45-year-old puzzle about whether or how quantum information escapes black holes. Quanta Magazine, "Philosophers Debate New ‘Sonic Black Hole’ Discovery," 30 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'paradox.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of paradox

1540, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for paradox

Latin paradoxum, from Greek paradoxon, from neuter of paradoxos contrary to expectation, from para- + dokein to think, seem — more at decent

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Time Traveler for paradox

Time Traveler

The first known use of paradox was in 1540

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Statistics for paradox

Last Updated

29 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Paradox.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/paradox. Accessed 6 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for paradox

paradox

noun
How to pronounce paradox (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of paradox

: something (such as a situation) that is made up of two opposite things and that seems impossible but is actually true or possible
: someone who does two things that seem to be opposite to each other or who has qualities that are opposite
: a statement that seems to say two opposite things but that may be true

paradox

noun
par·​a·​dox | \ ˈper-ə-ˌdäks How to pronounce paradox (audio) \

Kids Definition of paradox

1 : a statement that seems to say opposite things and yet is perhaps true
2 : a person or thing having qualities that seem to be opposite

paradox

noun
par·​a·​dox | \ ˈpar-ə-ˌdäks How to pronounce paradox (audio) \

Medical Definition of paradox

: an instance of a paradoxical phenomenon or reaction

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