In the dictionary

paradoxical adjective (of a person, thing or situation) having two opposite features and therefore seeming strange

It is paradoxical that some of the poorest people live in some of the richest areas of the country.

Do we have a common word, which a child can understand, expressing "paradoxical" in everyday English?

For example, It is odd/weird/strange... that some of the poorest people live in some of the richest areas of the country.

But "odd/weird/strange..." don't express 2 opposite features.

  • 2
    Have you tried a thesaurus? Were any listed? Which words did you discard?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 6, 2023 at 8:47
  • Define 'child'. I knew what a paradox was when I was 7. Feb 6, 2023 at 10:01
  • @MichaelHarvey In some dictionaries paradoxical is classed as a C1 and C2 (proficiency) level. I don't think it's a particularly difficult word for speakers of romance language to learn but it would be, I suspect, for speakers of Asian or Arabic languages. That you knew what the word meant at 7, who was born and raised in the UK is unremarkable but it does not mean native-speaking children today are as familiar with the term as you were. I suppose much depends on one's family, environment and, of course, teachers.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 6, 2023 at 10:28
  • 3
    Still, I would expect Tom, a seasoned user on ELL to know about the existence of thesauruses (or should that be thesauri?!)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 6, 2023 at 10:31

2 Answers 2


"Paradoxical" is not a particularly uncommon or difficult word; a young child might not have learned it yet, but it's hardly an obscure term.


"Ironic" works here in the sense of situational irony or irony of circumstances. While some English language purists would argue for a stricter definition, the word has been used that way for centuries. There are published sentences much like your example that use "ironic":

It is ironic that those who work hard to produce food for the country are the ones who are most vulnerable to hunger.

It is definitely a shorter word, but is it better understood? "irony" and "ironic" are only slightly more common than "paradox" and "paradoxical", and only since 1960, in Google Ngrams.

  • Welcome to ELL. I hope you like the place and decide to visit often. You might want to take the tour or to read the Contributor's guide. The guide has a lot of helpful information on how best to ask, and answer, questions here on ELL. Feb 7, 2023 at 0:12

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