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

These works speak to the paradox of the Soviet Union during its early decades, when Utopianism went hand-in-hand with manipulation. Anne Tschida, miamiherald, "The Power of Propaganda," 22 June 2018 Getty ImagesMark Cuthbert Birthdays are a bit of a paradox. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Kate Middleton Will Spend Part of Her Birthday Away from Prince William," 5 Jan. 2019 Solving America’s painkiller paradox: One of the root causes of the opioid epidemic was the proliferation of painkiller prescriptions. German Lopez, Vox, "The simple idea that could help end America’s opioid epidemic," 26 Dec. 2018 That's not a bad thing in moderation; some prior seasons went a little overboard with the intricate plotting, multiple timelines, and resulting, baffling paradoxes. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Doctor Who wraps a solid season with its first female Time Lord," 12 Dec. 2018 Intrigued by the paradox between a hard material and the perception of lightness, the architects wanted to test it on the scale of a building. Liz Stinson, Curbed, "This red brick facade looks like a rippling piece of fabric," 19 Oct. 2018 And when numbers simply can’t convey the costs of a humanitarian crisis, there’s an infuriating paradox at play. Brian Resnick, Vox, "Why it’s so hard to get people to care about mass suffering," 27 Nov. 2018 Birth of a paradox The next part of the story starts with a bet in 1991. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Stephen Hawking’s final paper published, tackles famous paradox," 11 Oct. 2018 The model, Garrett says, is a sort of built version of this paradox, both a place and a representation of a place, separate but inextricably linked. Nate Berg, Curbed, "Can engineering save Louisiana’s coastline?," 7 Nov. 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

12 Mar 2019

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 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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