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 trueb : a self-contradictory statement that at first seems truec : an argument that apparently derives self-contradictory conclusions by valid deduction from acceptable premises
3 : one (as a person, situation, or action) having seemingly contradictory qualities or phases
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
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.
Origin and Etymology of paradox
Latin paradoxum, from Greek paradoxon, from neuter of paradoxos contrary to expectation, from para- + dokein to think, seem — more at decent
First Known Use: 1540
PARADOX Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of paradox for English Language Learners
: 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 Defined for Kids
Definition of paradox for Students
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
Learn More about paradox
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up paradox? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).