Definition of paradox in US English:



  • 1A seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.

    ‘in a paradox, he has discovered that stepping back from his job has increased the rewards he gleans from it’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘These rationalizations are resorted to by true believers, to maintain their belief despite the failures and paradoxes that they constantly encounter.’
    contradiction, contradiction in terms, self-contradiction, inconsistency, incongruity, anomaly, conflict
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.
      ‘a potentially serious conflict between quantum mechanics and the general theory of relativity known as the information paradox’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘An entire chapter is devoted to cleavages, and another to infinity, beginning with Zeno's paradoxes and leading up to Cantor's transfinite cardinals.’
    2. 1.2 A situation, person, or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities.
      ‘the mingling of deciduous trees with elements of desert flora forms a fascinating ecological paradox’
      • ‘Brunel is a fascinating paradox: an artist and engineer who was rooted in the old world but imagined and helped to create the new.’
      • ‘Havana is a city of architectural ironies and paradoxes, of harmony and dissonance.’
      • ‘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’.