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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It sounds like a paradox - Paris has almost three times as much rain as London but London is much rainier than Paris.’
    contradiction, contradiction in terms, self-contradiction, inconsistency, incongruity, anomaly, conflict
    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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The question of infinity relates to paradoxes - an infinite regress or a circular argument indicate something is wrong with the argument.’
      • ‘An entire chapter is devoted to cleavages, and another to infinity, beginning with Zeno's paradoxes and leading up to Cantor's transfinite cardinals.’
      • ‘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’
      • ‘He's a paradox in some ways. There is an air of indifference, but he really does care.’
      • ‘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.’


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’.