Printable Version
Pronunciation: p-rê-dahks Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: No, this word does not mean "a couple of physicians" but rather a contradictory or seemingly contradictory statement that is true.

Notes: Statements and situations that are self-contradictory are paradoxical, the adjective to today's Good Word. But this word not only has a rich and happy family, it has a very large extended family, including paradoxy (or paradoxicality), the state of being paradoxical, paradoxer, someone who creates or uses paradoxes, paradoxism (or paradoxology), the use of paradoxes in speaking and writing. (I could go on.)

In Play: Perhaps the most famous of the philosophical paradoxes was the one posed by the 4th century BC Greek philosopher Eubulides: A man says, "I am lying." If what he says is true, then he is lying but therefore must be telling the truth. But how can someone lie and tell the truth at the same time? Most of today's paradoxes are purely linguistic, though: "I'm not going to take standing in line for an hour lying down!" In fact, oxymorons like loose tights and tight slacks are paradoxical since they seem to contain contradictory information yet refer to things that truly exist.

Word History: Today's Good Word is yet another from Latin, this time from paradoxum, itself borrowed from Greek paradoxon "paradox", the noun form of the adjective paradoxos "unexpected, incredible". Paradoxos is made up of para- "beyond" + doxa "opinion, belief" from dokein "to expect, seem". Almost all Indo-European languages have a word sharing a source with Greek para, including English for and forth, Latin per "through, by", and Russian pered "before, forward". Doxa appears in other English borrowings from Greek, such as orthodox, originally "true believing" and heterodox, originally "believing differently". (There is nothing paradoxical in our thanking Segue Fischlin for suggesting today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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