paradox

noun
par·​a·​dox | \ˈper-ə-ˌdäks, 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

Barkley is the paradox who explains the state of running backs in the NFL at a time when teams pass more than ever. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "Le’Veon Bell and the Diminishing Value of Running Backs in the NFL," 16 Nov. 2018 As such, the documentary ends by presenting what's ultimately the great paradox of something like General Magic: such an effort may eventually succeed in spirit or impact, but the practical experience will ruin a few things along the way. Nathan Mattise, Ars Technica, "General Magic—how tech superfriends assembled, dreamt up smartphones, and failed," 12 Aug. 2018 The paradox is that the current trade war might propel China to come up with more ambitious industrial strategies. Ling Chen, Washington Post, "How this trade war could backfire — in China’s favor," 25 June 2018 The third reason is a paradox: the very failure of his ideas to change the world for the better is ensuring them a new lease of life. The Economist, "Rulers of the world: read Karl Marx!," 3 May 2018 While that might seem like a paradox — how can a cleanser not contain soap? Ella Cerón, Teen Vogue, "How to Fight Acne and Dry Skin in Winter," 13 Nov. 2018 Malcolm Perry, a professor of theoretical physics at Cambridge and a co-author on the paper, Black Hole Entropy and Soft Hair, said the information paradox was ‘at the centre of Hawking’s life’ for more than 40 years. Fox News, "Video from 2011 creates headaches for Sinema," 12 Oct. 2018 The rails are both the heroes and antagonists of a conservation paradox that’s unfolding here in the San Francisco Bay. William Poor, The Verge, "This monster plant is taking over Silicon Valley — should we let it?," 7 Aug. 2018 The slightly awkward paradox of the summit’s enterprise is that the making and buying of fashion are themselves part of the problem. Eve Macsweeney, Vogue, "Inside the Copenhagen Fashion Summit: Well-Dressed Danes and Why You Shouldn’t Wear Spandex," 17 May 2018

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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Dictionary Entries near paradox

paradontal

parador

parados

paradox

paradoxal

paradoxer

paradoxial

Statistics for paradox

Last Updated

3 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for paradox

The first known use of paradox was in 1540

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More Definitions for paradox

paradox

noun

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 \

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 \

Medical Definition of paradox 

: an instance of a paradoxical phenomenon or reaction

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Comments on paradox

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