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 At the core of the $2 trillion package is a paradox: infrastructure projects are designed to make the United States more competitive, but they will be paired with corporate tax increases that will do just the opposite. CNN, "Biden wants to make the US more competitive. His tax hikes will do the opposite," 12 Apr. 2021 In some professions, fun at work may seem to be a paradox. Ulrik Juul Christensen, Forbes, "How Denmark Produced A Badminton Champion — And What That Teaches Business," 17 Mar. 2021 The combination of these characteristics is a paradox: People find a silver lining around even the stormiest clouds while also believing firmly that the sky is falling. Devon Powers, The Atlantic, "Our Pandemic Cocoons Are Breaking Open," 17 Mar. 2021 Either way, there is a paradox emerging: while old established, bricks and mortar businesses enthuse about remote working, tech companies are rushing to put down roots, perhaps while office space is going cheap. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "Woke Capitalism — The Next Generation," 12 Mar. 2021 As far as theater is concerned, the pandemic has been a paradox, shrinking life down to lockdown bubbles and simultaneously expanding horizons. New York Times, "Making Black Lives, Not Just Black Deaths, Matter Onstage," 28 Feb. 2021 This gets to a paradox at the heart of their story. Zachary Siegel, The New Republic, "What Did the Sacklers Know?," 23 Apr. 2021 The paradox of California is that pretty much anything will theoretically grow here, but persistent drought conditions, which then exacerbate the fire season, make the land less hospitable without further human intervention. Kelsey Keith, ELLE Decor, "Yes, Anyone Can Make Their Backyard More Eco-Friendly," 31 Mar. 2021 But the paradox is that in portraying events so selectively, Allen v. Farrow leaves too much room for yet another public wrangling. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "The Awful Intimacy of Allen v. Farrow," 23 Feb. 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

Time Traveler

The first known use of paradox was in 1540

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Statistics for paradox

Last Updated

7 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Paradox.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/paradox. Accessed 13 May. 2021.

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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

Comments on paradox

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