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

Definition of paradox

1 : one (such as a person, situation, or action) having seemingly contradictory qualities or phases
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 : 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 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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web Henry inspires them to embark on learning the alphabet with a rousing speech about how America is a paradox. Jessica Goldstein, Vulture, 20 Nov. 2021 Wigner's Friend is a paradox in quantum physics that describes the states of two people: one conducts an experiment, and the other observes that first person. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, 23 Aug. 2021 Halfway into Zachary Lazar’s fine paradox of a novel — a tale of renewal amid constant terror — a couple arrives in the Mexican city of Guanajuato. John Domini, Los Angeles Times, 27 Apr. 2022 Leka is a paradox—a royal prince living in a democratic republic. Helen Lewis, The Atlantic, 12 Apr. 2022 During the pandemic, Collins has struggled with a painful paradox: science is more effective and necessary than ever, and also less trusted. Dhruv Khullar, The New Yorker, 7 Apr. 2022 That paradox is the crux of a debate rocking the Census Bureau. New York Times, 21 Apr. 2022 The paradox is the glut of information and the dearth of observation. Lynn Steger Strong, Los Angeles Times, 3 Apr. 2022 The paradox is that stocks, while risky, are the essential building blocks of wealth. Larry Light, Fortune, 3 Dec. 2021 See More

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.

First Known Use of paradox

1540, in the meaning defined at sense 3

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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Last Updated

19 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Paradox.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for paradox


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


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 Encyclopedia article about paradox


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