Definition of paradox in 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’
    • ‘This planned spontaneity might sound like a paradox, but I usually find that chaotic and purposeless free time is not worth a great deal.’
    • ‘Solo practice improves concentration, which improves group practice. This sounds like a paradox, but it is not.’
    • ‘These rationalizations are resorted to by true believers, to maintain their belief despite the failures and paradoxes that they constantly encounter.’
    • ‘We don't like the apparently irreconcilable paradoxes adults have to deal with, and we want a nice, simple system of reward and punishment.’
    • ‘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
    absurdity, oddity, enigma, puzzle, mystery, conundrum
    oxymoron, antinomy
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1A 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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Disjunctions or conditionals featured as premises in many of the logical paradoxes and sophisms which members of the Dialectical school discussed.’
      • ‘Less is known about the Megarian logicians, but they seem to have been particularly interested in conditionals, and also in logical paradoxes.’
      • ‘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.’
    2. 1.2A 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’
      • ‘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.