Definition of paradox in English:



  • 1A seemingly absurd or contradictory statement or proposition which when investigated may prove to be well founded or true:

    ‘the uncertainty principle leads to all sorts of paradoxes, like the particles being in two places at once’
    • ‘These rationalizations are resorted to by true believers, to maintain their belief despite the failures and paradoxes that they constantly encounter.’
    • ‘It sounds like a paradox - Paris has almost three times as much rain as London but London is much rainier than Paris.’
    • ‘This planned spontaneity might sound like a paradox, but I usually find that chaotic and purposeless free time is not worth a great deal.’
    • ‘We don't like the apparently irreconcilable paradoxes adults have to deal with, and we want a nice, simple system of reward and punishment.’
    • ‘Solo practice improves concentration, which improves group practice. This sounds like a paradox, but it is not.’
    contradiction, contradiction in terms, self-contradiction, inconsistency, incongruity, anomaly, conflict
    absurdity, oddity, enigma, puzzle, mystery, conundrum
    oxymoron, antinomy
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A statement or proposition which, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems logically unacceptable or self-contradictory:
      ‘the liar paradox’
      [mass noun] ‘Parmenides was the original advocate of the philosophical power of paradox’
      • ‘An entire chapter is devoted to cleavages, and another to infinity, beginning with Zeno's paradoxes and leading up to Cantor's transfinite cardinals.’
      • ‘The question of infinity relates to paradoxes - an infinite regress or a circular argument indicate something is wrong with the argument.’
      • ‘Less is known about the Megarian logicians, but they seem to have been particularly interested in conditionals, and also in logical paradoxes.’
      • ‘Disjunctions or conditionals featured as premises in many of the logical paradoxes and sophisms which members of the Dialectical school discussed.’
      • ‘Therefore, in order to counter concerns raised by the discovery of the logical and set-theoretic paradoxes, a new approach was needed to justify modern mathematical methods.’
    2. 1.2 A person or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities:
      ‘cathedrals face the paradox of having enormous wealth in treasures but huge annual expenses’
      • ‘Havana is a city of architectural ironies and paradoxes, of harmony and dissonance.’
      • ‘Brunel is a fascinating paradox: an artist and engineer who was rooted in the old world but imagined and helped to create the new.’
      • ‘He's a paradox in some ways. There is an air of indifference, but he really does care.’


Mid 16th century (originally denoting a statement contrary to accepted opinion): via late Latin from Greek paradoxon contrary (opinion), neuter adjective used as a noun, from para- distinct from + doxa opinion.