paradox

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

Essential Meaning of paradox

1 : something (such as a situation) that is made up of two opposite things and that seems impossible but is actually true or possible It is a paradox that computers need maintenance so often, since they are meant to save people time.
2 : someone who does two things that seem to be opposite to each other or who has qualities that are opposite As an actor, he's a paradox—he loves being in the public eye but also deeply values and protects his privacy.
3 : a statement that seems to say two opposite things but that may be true

Full 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

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 Tesla’s strategy, the largest effort by a Western electric vehicle maker to directly source minerals, could serve as a model for a green industry confronting an uncomfortable paradox. New York Times, 31 Dec. 2021 This underpins a paradox that runs through the use of such technology—perception and reality are not aligned. Will Coldwell, Wired, 29 Dec. 2021 Those insights led directly into the Fund’s work on the transportation paradox. Sean Mcdonnell, cleveland, 19 Dec. 2021 That would resolve a paradox that accompanied the spectacular rise of index funds since the 1990s. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, 12 Dec. 2021 Researchers have long observed a phenomenon known as the Latino paradox. Los Angeles Times, 9 Dec. 2021 Like Boggle, space-time has the potential to store information, which could be the key to solving the infamous black hole information paradox. Katie Mccormick, Quanta Magazine, 8 Dec. 2021 His movies often rest upon an apparent paradox between the refinement of his methods and the violence of his subject matter. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 25 Oct. 2021 While her old arguments — against binary thinking; in favor of accepting paradox — are the foundation, the book is also a response to overwhelming global catastrophes of late. New York Times, 15 Dec. 2021

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

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The first known use of paradox was in 1540

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Dictionary Entries Near paradox

parados

paradox

paradoxal

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Last Updated

7 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Paradox.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/paradox. Accessed 17 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for paradox

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

More from Merriam-Webster on paradox

Nglish: Translation of paradox for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of paradox for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about paradox

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