par·​a·​dox ˈper-ə-ˌdäks How to pronounce paradox (audio)
: one (such as a person, situation, or action) having seemingly contradictory qualities or phases
: a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true
: a self-contradictory statement that at first seems true
: an argument that apparently derives self-contradictory conclusions by valid deduction from acceptable premises
: a tenet contrary to received opinion

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 used that word as the basis for a 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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web Those findings highlight a paradox: More Americans participate in the political process today than ever. David Lauter, Los Angeles Times, 22 Sep. 2023 The paradox of drinking in Dubai, and how the city's cocktail culture just keeps getting better. Natalie Preddie, Travel + Leisure, 15 Sep. 2023 The Handoff For thousands of migrants, the normalization of this route has set up a cruel paradox. Julie Turkewitz Federico Rios, New York Times, 14 Sep. 2023 Challenge trials often end up running into a paradox: Though there’s a lot to learn from infecting participants with a deadly disease, actually doing so may be unethical. Sara Harrison, Discover Magazine, 4 Aug. 2023 That paradox — his steely-eyed dedication to baseball, and his surprising number of interests outside of it — made Votto something of a baseball man of mystery. Zach Buchanan, New York Times, 11 Sep. 2023 Both plays meditate on the paradox of how someone can be at once cursed and blessed. Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times, 8 Sep. 2023 This history of the Holocaust probes the uses and abuses of memory So, a paradox: Jewish life in many ways is flourishing in Poland — with a new museum, community centers and cultural festivals like the Rosenfarb centennial, mostly driven by non-Jews since only a few thousand Jews remain. Jane Eisner, Washington Post, 21 Aug. 2023 And yet, in a seeming paradox, the government has instructed Aramco to increase production to well over 13 million barrels of oil a day by 2027. Byvivienne Walt, Fortune, 1 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'paradox.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Time Traveler
The first known use of paradox was in 1540


Dictionary Entries Near paradox

Cite this Entry

“Paradox.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


par·​a·​dox ˈpar-ə-ˌdäks How to pronounce paradox (audio)
: a statement that seems to go against common sense but may still be true
: a false statement that at first seems true
: a person or thing having qualities that seem to be opposites

Medical Definition


par·​a·​dox ˈpar-ə-ˌdäks How to pronounce paradox (audio)
: an instance of a paradoxical phenomenon or reaction

More from Merriam-Webster on paradox

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!